Photo courtesy UTEP Athletics
UTEP Head Coach Ben Wallis has brought passion and energy to the volleyball program.
“I talked about it before the match. This is going to be hard,” first-year UTEP Head Coach Ben Wallis said.
“I told the team it was going to be hard, I don’t want it to be easy. My speech to team before the match is there’s a difference between front runners and grinders. Front runners are the people who play well in the lead. They’re the ones who just expect things to be easy when it gets hard – they just buckle and they fail. So my whole speech was don’t be a front runner.”
The Miners (4-1), after falling down 2-0 to Texas A&M-CC (2-4), rallied with pure energy and excitement to a 3-2 victory, including a 15-5 dominating triumph in set no. 5 Friday night in Memorial Gym.
Earlier in the day, UTEP defeated Coppin State, 3-0, to commence the 2019 Borderland Invitational.
MATCH2: UTEP 3, Texas A&M-CC 2
TAMUCC opened the match with a 25-18 win and followed with a crushing 25-15 victory in set two to take a 2-0 lead.
Following the two losses, the Miners paid back the Islanders with a 25-15 win of their own. After going neck and neck with a 9-9 tie, UTEP went on a 6-0 run as Cheyenne Jones tallied a pair of kills and Alex Torres registered two service aces. The Islanders never recovered.
The third set was close, while the two squads were tied 16-16. But the Miners used a 4-0 run to go up 20-16, taking advantage of attack errors. Texas A&M-CC got within three points (21-18), but UTEP finished off the set, 25-19, to tie the match 2-2.
The Miners drowned the Islanders in the fifth set after jumping out to a 12-4 lead. Alianza Darley and Serena Patterson connected on a kill each, while Patterson finished off the day with a service ace to down TAMUCC, 15-5.
Irbe Lazda led the Orange and Blue with 16 kills and registered three service aces to go along with Syenna Masaki’s trio of aces. Mallory Yost led with five blocks and Masaki paced the team with 18 assists. Patterson and Torres each recorded 11 digs.
MATCH1: UTEP 3, Coppin State 0
Anamarija Mikovic led the Miners with 11 kills, while Mallory Yost registered a .538 hitting percentage to lead the Miners past Coppin State, 3-0.
“Any win we can get with this young team is a big deal,” Wallis said. “It was our first win at home which is exciting for us. Coppin state was down a player today with an injury, so they’re better than they were and they still gave us fits. We played consistently well for long stretches never relented. I’m proud of the fact that we were pretty balanced. We set a lot of players and got people in the game who needed experience.”
The Eagles (2-3) played a competitive first set, taking a 13-12 lead off a kill from Miajavon Coleman after UTEP took a quick 4-1 advantage.
The Miners, after falling down a point, went on a 5-0 run highlighted by a pair of kills by Cheyenne Jones to take a 17-13 lead. Darley then gave her squad a five-point advantage (20-15) off an assist by Kristen Fritsche.
The Miners would prevail 25-21, capped by a kill by Patterson from a set ball by Sophia Chacon.
The Miners controlled the pace during the next two sets. UTEP won set two, 25-17. The Orange and Blue led by as many as 10 points on a pair of occasions. A service ace by Patterson put UTEP up 17-7, while a kill by Darley gave the Miners a 23-13 lead.
Again, UTEP would lead by 10 points during five occasions during the third set. CSU found a way to chip away, finding itself down by five points (24-19), but Darley clipped the Eagles on a kill from a Fritsche assist to capture the victory.
Erika Sianez led the Miners with a trio of aces, while Patterson and Lazda registered two aces apiece. Ladza led with six blocks, while Darley and Yost tallied a pair of blocks each.
Fritsche registered a season-high 20 assists, while Masaki set up her teammates with 13 assists. Torres led the way with 16 digs.
Up next, UTEP will play up the road in Las Cruces, in a pair of matches. First, the Miners will take on Pacific Saturday at 4 p.m. and will tangle with I-10 rival NM State Sunday at 2 p.m.