Photo: UTEP Athletics
The UTEP volleyball team used a collective team effort to earn a 3-2 (25-19, 21-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-9) upset over Florida International Friday evening in Memorial Gym.
Five Miners had double-digit kills on the match to power through one of Conference USA’s top blocking teams. Macey Austin had a stellar day for the Orange and Blue, having 15 kills on 25 attempts with just three errors for a .480 hitting percentage.
Fellow freshman Briana Arellano, sophomores Ashley Grzebeniak and Kylie Baumgartner as well as senior middle blocker, Tatum Winter, added 10 kills each. Senior Lindsey Larson finished with 49 assists and added eight kills.
The UTEP defense was on point, limiting the FIU offense to a .189 hitting percentage. Senior libero Sarah Villa led the charge with 17 digs, while senior Amanda King finished with 11 digs. Winter led the team with four blocks with two solo blocks and four assisted blocks.
FIU came out firing in set one and pushed ahead for a 4-1 lead. However, a kill from Arellano sparked a Miner run that led to a 14-12 lead and a few Panther errors gave UTEP a 25-19 win.
Set two saw the teams battling back and forth for a substantial lead until an attack error from Arellano and a FIU block pushed the Panthers up, 21-18. The Miners responded with three more points in the remainder of the second but FIU took the set, 25-21.
The Orange and Blue regrouped at intermission and jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead in the third set. The Panthers utilized a timeout and came out to score back-to-back points but UTEP was able to get away quickly and claimed a 2-1 match advantage with a 25-16 win in the third period.
The two teams played an even fourth set and opened the stanza with 10 ties and four lead changes. After a timeout, a kill from FIU’s Lina Bernier and an attack error on Kylie Baumgartner lifted the Panthers to a 13-12 lead. A block from Brianna Gogins of FIU gave the Panthers set point but UTEP came back to tie the match, 24-24 to extend the set. The frame was tied once again at 25 but a kill from Gogins and an attack error on Grzebeniak sent the match to the fifth with a 27-25 FIU win.
The deciding set was tied, 5-5, before FIU called a timeout on the court. UTEP took advantage of the break and got ahead 11-7 before the Panthers took another timeout. FIU scored on two more kills from Taija Thomas but a kill from Austin secured the match for UTEP with a 15-9 victory.
The Miners will host one more match this week as Florida Atlantic comes into town on Sunday. The match will start at 12 p.m. (MT) but the UTEP squad will be honoring seniors Lindsey Larson, Sarah Villa and Tatum Winter during pre-game.