HATTIESBURG, Ms. – The UTEP volleyball team (15-4, 4-2 Conference USA) defeated Southern Miss, 3-2 (28-26, 15-25, 25-16, 22-25, 15-9) Saturday morning in Reed Green Coliseum.
Two Miners accomplished career-highs. Serena Patterson posted a career-high 25 kills (.449) and Kristen Fritsche registered a personal-best 33 assists.
The Miners had three players hit double-digit kills: Patterson (25), Paulina Perez Rosas (16) and Ema Uskokovic (12). Fritsche led the team with 33 assists while Hande Yetis recorded 20. For the defense, Alyssa Sianez ranked first on the squad with 15 digs and three services aces. Perez Rosas and Fritsche achieved a double-double each with 12 and 10 digs, respectively.
UTEP recorded eight service aces, 11 blocks, and hit .354 with its second-most assists (66) on the campaign.
“It was stressful,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “Southern Miss played a lot harder today and served it a lot tougher. We didn’t handle their service pressure very well for long stretches, but we battled and took a couple punches.
“We got some timely quality play in the fifth set,” Wallis said. “Other than that, there wasn’t a lot of point runs, not a lot of quality volleyball for more than four or five points at a time and that’s why we struggled to win in five sets.”
The first set consisted of 11 tied scores and five lead changes in favor of Southern Miss. As the Golden Eagles came to set point, 24-18, the Miners rallied with a 6-0 scoring run to tie up the score. After four set-points, UTEP won the set, 28-26. A quick change of pace occurred for Southern Miss as it rallied in the second set with a 7-0 scoring run to take the lead. The Golden Eagles pulled ahead with the advantage which landed them on the board with a set win, 25-15.
UTEP bounced back in the third set and pulled off multiple scoring runs to take the lead. Southern Miss was unable to rally as the Miners stopped the competition to take a 2-1 advantage in the match, 25-16.
Both teams brought on an intense fourth set with 13 tied scores and three lead changes. As the Miners led the set 22-21, the Golden Eagles rallied to go on a 4-0 scoring run to win the set, 25-22.
The final set started off with another intense exchange of points with three lead changes. Trailing by two, the Miners snatched the last lead change mid-set, 8-7. The Orange and Blue ran with an 8-2 scoring run to take the set and win the match, 15-9.
“It got kind of chippy between the two teams and luckily my team was a little bit more veteran and composed,” Wallis said. “That just shows that we decided we were going to hit the ball hard and be more physical. That’s why we got the victory.”