Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball/Twitter
PORTLAND, Or.- The UTEP volleyball team wrapped up tournament play on Saturday, dropping its final match of the Nike Invitational to Portland State, who remained undefeated in the tournament, in Portland. The Vikings (9-3) got by the Miners 25-16, 25-20, 26-24 to complete the sweep at Portland’s Chiles Center.
“We battled today in a match that was much closer than ‘0-3′ indicates,” UTEP head coach Holly Watts said. “We showed the willingness to compete with a tough opponent and never quit. Today we pushed back and we can look for some of these tough battles to start going our way.”
The Miners were led by Macey Austin, who was named to the all-tournament team, with 14 kills, followed by Cheyenne Jones with 10. Sahara Martinez dished out 18 assists to lead the team and Amanda King added 15 of her own. Defensively, Dania Orozco picked up 12 digs and Kylie Baumgartner recorded a solo block and four block assists to help the Miner effort.
In the three sets, UTEP totaled 38 kills, 37 assists, 43 digs and seven total blocks in the Nike Invitational finale, while Portland State recorded 39 kills, 37 assists, 50 digs and 12 total blocks.
The Miners picked up their tempo as each set progressed after the 25-16 set one loss in a match that was much closer than the score indicated. The team rallied to get within two before a Viking run closed out set two 25-20, but it was set three that saw the Miners’ great effort to prevent a sweep, getting within a point of giving the Vikings their first set loss of the tournament.
A 5-1 Viking lead at the start of set three was halted by back-to-back kills by freshman Cheyenne Jones, bringing the Miners within two. Portland State would then begin another run before Jones and Austin would knock down kills and Viking attack and service errors helped UTEP cut the deficient to 10-8 in Portland State’s favor.
Two more Austin kills complimented by a block assist by Baumgartner and Jones and a solo block by Baumgartner brought the Miners within one of the Vikings, 15-14. Portland State would notch a kill to get up by two, but the Miners went on a 3-0 run, started by a Ali Vidali kill and followed by consecutive Jones kills to grab the 17-16 set lead and prompt a Portland State timeout.
Another 3-0 run by the Vikings was again slowed by a Jones kill, but Portland State quickly responded a kill of their own to stay up 20-18. That would not last for long, however, as consecutive Miner kills by Mallory Yost and Austin tied the game at 20 and forced another Portland timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Vikings jumped out with three consecutive kills before a UTEP timeout was called and the Vikings’ serve was into the net. The lead was extended to three as a Viking kill brought up set point, but Austin and Baumgarter would each get their chance to spoil set point for the Vikings with kills of their own, and an ace by Sahara Martinez tied the game at 24.
A Miner error would bring up set point again, and Portland State ended the set 26-24, and the match 3-0, with a block.
The Miners will return to action with a Tuesday evening meeting with I-10 rival NM State in Las Cruses, N.M. First serve against the Aggies is set for 7 p.m. MT.