UTEP Volleyball Falls to No. 23 WKU

UTEP Volleyball Falls to No. 23 WKU

 UTEP volleyball (11-9, 5-2 Conference USA) fell to nationally-ranked Western Kentucky (19-2, 7-0 C-USA), 3-1 (15-25, 22-25, 25-20, 16-25) Sunday afternoon in Memorial Gym. 

Alianza Darley led the Miners with 12 kills. Hande Yetis (19) and Mattie Gantt (14) combined for 33 assists and Hula Crisostomo had a team-high 11 digs.

UTEP had the statistical advantage in hitting percentage (.224 – .216) and blocks (13-5), but were outhit in kills (43-45) and aces (7-17).

I’m frustrated in how we fell apart receiving it, because normally that’s a strength of our game,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “What I’m very proud of, though, is how well we competed at the net. We were able to pressure them in certain ways that that I was pleased to see because of the lineup that we’re rolling out there. We had balance in our offense.”

SET ONE | WKU drew a quick 8-3 lead to start the match, only allowing two kills to the Miners. In between UTEP’s two timeouts, the Miners gained six points, three of which were WKU errors. UTEP’s next six-point spurt consisted of three kills and an ace, but their efforts came up short as the Hilltoppers closed the first set, 25-15.

SET TWO | The second set consisted of 10 tied scores and four lead changes to set the scene. Both teams had small rallies to regain the lead after several tied scores at eight, 10, 11, and 13. With WKU up by one, 14-13, Darley evened things out with a kill but back-to-back errors from the Miners handed the lead over to the Hilltoppers. A big block by Kaya Weaver and Darley tied the set at 22 but WKU managed to put down a pair of kills and an error from UTEP sealed the second set for the Hilltoppers, 25-22.

SET THREE | UTEP jumped to a 3-0 lead and continued that momentum keeping a minimum two-point lead forcing WKU to take its first timeout of the match, 15-11. After the break, both teams posted a pair of errors, but the Miners pulled ahead stretching the lead by eight, 20-12. UTEP reached set point off an error by WKU, 24-17. The Hilltoppers drove a 3-0 run but a kill by Torrance Lovesee put the Miners on the board, 25-20.

SET FOUR | WKU secured the lead early on in the final set, 7-2, repeating its efforts from the first set. The Miners edged on with three more, before WKU blasted out a 5-1 run featuring two service aces and a kill. The Hilltoppers extended the lead by 10 points over UTEP, 19-9 just before UTEP fired back with a 4-1 run with three kills. WKU sealed the match, 25-15, with back-to-back swings over the net.

Final Thoughts from Coach Wallis 

As a receiving corps, we didn’t do a very good job of battling, competing and fighting a very good serving team. And their service structure was very good. They were able to pinpoint our outside hitters at times in passing patterns and that stressed us all out. We all just kind of fell apart from an emotional standpoint, receiving it. So I think the only way you learn how to play in moments of championship style volleyball is to be exposed a little bit and learn how to deal with them and learn what your real weaknesses are. We haven’t seen anybody pressure us the way they pressured us serving it like they did, and we didn’t respond very well emotionally. I love the way we competed against WKU. I’m proud of Darely and Patterson showing a lot of growth in the last two or three weeks and getting back to a place where they just go in and carry a lot of loads. I thought Kaya (Weaver) was very competitive at times, trying to put herself in front of one of the best middles in all of college volleyball. I appreciate Travis (Hudson) and his staff because they challenge you and they make you really prepare hard for them. I’m hopeful in one month we’re playing them on their home floor with a chance to win a conference championship, and we’ll be ready, and we’ll be prepared,

UP NEXT         
Miners are back in action as they host UTSA on Friday (Oct. 21) at 6 p.m. MT in Memorial Gym.