Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball/Twitter

UTEP Takes On NM State In FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10

The UTEP volleyball team will close out its non-conference action on Tuesday, September 19, when it meets with NM State for the FirstLight Federal Credit Union’s Battle of I-10 in Las Cruses.

The Miners completed tournament play last weekend at the Nike Invitational and are the hunt for a win after going 0-3 on the weekend against stiff competition in Portland, Ore. UTEP fell to CSUN 3-0 to open up the Invite and lost 3-0 to tournament host Portland to end the first day of the Invite.

The Miners then faced Portland State, who entered the Nike Invitational at a flawless 3-0 and not dropping any sets, on Sunday. The team put up a great effort and almost handed the Vikings their first set loss of the tournament, pushing set three into extra points before ultimately falling 26-24.

UTEP (3-9) will be looking for its first win over NM State (7-5) since September 26, 2012, when the Miners edged the Aggies 3-2 at Memorial Gym. The last six meetings between the two have gone in the Aggies’ favor.

The FirstLight Federal Credit Union I-10 Rivalry action will feature live stats and will be live streamed.   First serve between the rivals is set for 7 p.m. at the Pan American Center. 


NM State Scouting Report

Series: Tuesday’s match will mark the 85th meeting between the I-10 rivals. NM State hold the all-time series lead 62-22. The first meeting came in 1974 with the Miners getting the 2-1 win over the Aggies at the Sul Ross State Invitational in Alpine, Texas. The last meeting was on November 23, 2016  when NM State topped the Miners 3-2 in Memorial Gym.  

Aggie Notables

The Aggies improved to 7-5 overall after their 3-0 victory against William & Mary at the Wildcat Classic in Tucson, Ariz. on Sept. 16. In the Classic, NM State previously lost to Illinois State, 3-0, and was edged out by host Arizona, 3-2. The Aggies opened their 2017 campaign at the Golden Dome Invitational with victories against Rhode Island (3-0) and Valparaiso (3-1) and then fell to host Notre Dame (3-1).

After back-to-back losses to North Dakota (3-2) and no. 11 UCLA (3-0), at the NM State Springhill Suites Invitational, NM State started a string of four wins in a row – the first came against UNLV (3-1) at the Spring Hill Suites Invite, while defeating Abilene Christian (3-0), Delaware State (3-0) and Samford (3-0) at the Borderland Invitational.

The Aggies have tallied 587 kills with a .202 hitting percentage in the process. NM State’s kills per set (13.7) ranks no. 1 in the Western Athletic Conference and no. 58 nationally. The Aggies’ assists per set (12.9) ranks no. 1 in the WAC and 52nd nationally. Opponents are hitting .139, which also ranks no. 1 in the WAC and 14th nationally.

Freshman MB Brielle Sterns ranks third in the WAC in blocks per set (1.00) and senior libero Ariadnna Sierra ranks second in the WAC and 28th nationally in digs per set (5.28), while ranking third in the WAC and no. 46 nationally in total digs (227). Senior OH Kassandra Tohm leads the squad in points (151.5), points per set (3.52), kills (135) and kills per set (3.14). Junior setter Briana Ainsworth leads the team in assists (264), while fashioning a .467 hitting percentage. 


The Miners showed a lot of fight in the Nike Invitational in Portland, Ore. this past weekend, but fell in the three matches played to competitive teams. UTEP opened the Invite with a double-header on Friday, first meeting with CSUN and then closing out the day with an evening match up with tournament host Portland.

The Matadors handed the Miners a three-set loss and the back-and-forth action with the Pilots ultimately ended in Portland’s favor with a sweep. The Miners capped the Portland trip with a Saturday match-up with Portland State, who remained flawless in the Invite after handing the Miners a loss in three sets, but the score did no justice to how tight the game stayed. The Miners pushed set three into extra points behind strong offensive efforts by Macey Austin, Cheyenne Jones, Mallory Yost and Ali Vidali, and came as close as one point to spoiling the Vikings’ run of not dropping any sets, before falling 26-24.


Sophomore outside hitter Briana Arellano and senior setter Amanda King notched their second double-double of the season on Friday at the Nike Invitational in Portland, Ore. against Invite host Portland. Arellano recorded 10 kills and a career-high 14 digs against the Pilots on her way to her second double-double of the season, her first coming from last Sunday’s match against Abilene Christian. King’s 19-assist, 10-dig performance against the Pilots put her second double-double under her belt.


Offensive powerhouse Macey Austin earned a spot on the Nike Invitational All-Tournament Team after racking up 24 kills and recording a block assist during the weekend. Austin’s 14-kill performance helped push Portland State, who had not dropped a set during the Invitational, to extra points in set three before the Vikings ultimately prevailed. The sophomore averaged 2.67 kills per set through the weekend and now has 136 kills on the season though 43 sets played, on pace to pass her kill total of 280 in 2016.   


Freshman Cheyenne Jones recorded double-digit kills in UTEP’s match against Portland State at the Nike Invitational. The outside hitter knocked down 10 kills, bouncing back from an unusual single-kill match the night before, and recorded 16 kills on the weekend and added six block assists. Jones averaged 1.78 kills per set through two days and currently has 85 kills on the season.