HATTIESBURG, Ms. – UTEP outside hitter Macey Austin turned in a solid performance, tallying 14 kills with only one error and hammered a career-high .565 clip, but Southern Miss was too much for the Miners in the last two sets to pull away with a 3-0 victory (25-23, 25-14, 25-15) in Hattiesburg on Monday afternoon.
The match was made up from an Oct. 8 scheduled date that was postponed due to Tropical Storm Nate.
During the first set, the Miners (4-16, 1-6 Conference USA) battled with the Golden Eagles (14-8, 4-2 C-USA), taking an early 6-3 edge after Austin registered her first kill of the day. And following an outside hitter Briana Arellano kill, UTEP took an 8-5 lead.
But Southern Miss responded as it used a 5-0 run to go on top, 10-8.
The Golden Eagles’ rally ended with a service error by Natalie Druhan and UTEP would eventually tie the set at 12-12 after an Austin kill that was assisted by Amanda King. Southern Miss led most of the way down the stretch as it took a 20-17 lead. However, the Miners rallied to tie the set at 20-20 before the Golden Eagles outscored their opponent 5-3 to secure the first-set victory.
In the second set, the Miners led early 9-8 after a ball handling error by Sarah Bell. Austin came out firing early during the second stanza as she tallied four kills. But Southern Miss used 12 answered points to take a commanding 20-9 advantage and would go on to win the second set 25-14.
UTEP, again, would keep pace with Southern Miss to begin the third set. With the score 6-4, in favor of the Golden Eagles, the Miners used back-to-back points to tie the set after a kill by outside hitter Cheyenne Jones and a service error by Madison Lawler. But Southern Miss was hard to sustain down the stretch and outscored the Miners 19-9 to take the overall match.
Austin only committed one error as she registered 14 kills on 23 total attempts (.565). Arellano finished with 10 hits, while Jones recorded three kills on 10 total attempts (one error). Middle blocker Mallory Yost and middle blocker Maddie Morgan each registered a kill. Defensive specialist Niki Cebak led with seven digs and King recorded a team-leading 26 assists. The Miners recorded six service aces, led by outside hitter Ashley Grzebeniak and Cebak, who each tallied a pair.
UTEP will take the road this upcoming weekend to play at C-USA leaders WKU (21-2, 7-0 C-USA) on Oct. 20 (5 p.m. MT) and Rice (16-5, 6-1 C-USA) on Oct. 22 (noon). The Miners upset the Owls, 3-2 (28-26, 16-25, 25-22, 19-25, 19-14), on Sept. 22 in Memorial Gym.
The Miners and Hilltoppers will meet for the only time this season. UTEP fell at WKU, 3-0, on Oct. 21, 2016.