Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball/Twitter
DENTON, Texas- The UTEP volleyball team were neck-and-neck with Tulsa in set one, but slipped to the Hurricane 3-0 in their final match at the North Texas Invitational in Denton, Texas, on Saturday.
Freshman Cheyenne Jones led the Miners’ offensive efforts with nine kills, while Macey Austin added six of her own. Briana Arellano and Maddie Morgan hammered down three kills a piece to help the team. The Miners were again led by six-rotation player Amanda King in assists, as she dished out 18 and added five digs and three block assists.
Defensively, sophomore libero Niki Cebak recorded six digs and Arellano put in her own effort with four digs. Cebak also added a service ace. The Miners also totaled eight total team blocks, paced by Morgan and King with three each.
The Orange and blue totaled 23 kills, 21 assists, 22 digs and 8 total team blocks, while the Hurricane notched 35 kills, 34 assists, 31 digs and eight total team blocks in the match.
“We served tougher and more consistently today and we went on a few runs,” UTEP head coach Holly Watts said. “Our serve-receive needs to be better, longer. We had some individuals during short periods of time that were really good and give us a lot of hope for this team and this season. We’ll work out a few little things to make a big difference.”
The Miners began set one with three consecutive attack errors, but a Tulsa service and attack error followed by an Austin kill helped the team even the set at three-all. That began a shootout between the Miners and Hurricane, with each capitalizing on the other’s attack errors before Jones hammered down a kill and King and Mallory Yost teamed up for a block to even the set at 12.
Two consecutive attack errors by Tulsa brought the Miners up 13-12 before the Hurricane’s Maggie Hembree again tied the set at 13. Nine plays continued to bring each team no greater than one point from the other, including four ties, before Tulsa called a timeout after another Austin kill and a block by Yost brought the score to 18-17 in the Miners’ favor.
Coming out of the timeout, King set up Austin for the sophomore’s fourth kill of the set, but Tulsa’s Callie Cook matched that to tie the set at 19. Consecutive Miner kills by Arellano and Jones brought the Orange and Blue up by two, but Tulsa answered back with two of their own to halt a Miner run.
Watts called a timeout to stop the Hurricane momentum, and Jones came out strong with a kill to again tie the match, 23-all. A service error by King, however, would lead to a Tulsa service ace to end set one 25-23.
Set two began just as set one had, with consecutive Miner attack errors before a kill by Jones and a Morgan-Austin block helped the Miners bring the score to 3-2, Tulsa. Attack and service errors would prove destructive for the Miners, however, as Tulsa began to pull away. A valiant comeback effort from the UTEP squad came up short, as the Hurricane took set two 25-15, and the 2-0 match lead.
Controlling the momentum, Tulsa came out firing in set three, blanking the Miners 4-0 before Kylie Baumgartner put a stop to it with a kill, putting her team on the board. UTEP stayed within reach of Tulsa, and Jones teamed up with Baumgartner to block a Hurricane attack and run, leaving the score 18-12 in Tulsa’s favor.
Impressive serves by Cebak, which included a service ace, helped the Miners stay alive at 22-17, but Tulsa called a timeout to slow down the Miner run. The Hurricane then ended the Miner comeback 25-19 to compete the sweep.
UTEP will return to Memorial Gym to prep for Texas Tech in the home opener. The Red Raiders will be in the Sun City on Wednesday, Aug. 30. First serve is set for 6 p.m. MT.