Photo: UTEP Athletics

Volleyball Forces NM State to Five Sets in Final Match of 2016

Senior Sarah Villa became the UTEP volleyball program’s all-time leader in career digs as the Miners forced I-10 rival NM State to five tough sets, but the Aggies upended the Miners (25-20, 18-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-12) in the final match of the 2016 season in Memorial gym on Wednesday.

Freshman Macey Austin paced the Orange and Blue’s efforts with 12 total kills but Kylie Baumgartner followed with 10 kills at a .348 clip. Senior Lindsey Larson connected for 31 assists while adding 19 digs, eight kills and four blocks in the match for her 18th double-double of the season. Sarah Villa and Briana Arellano also saw double-digit digs in the match with 26 digs and 15 digs, respectively.

NM State’s Tatyana Battle led the Aggies on 20 kills and was followed by Jordan Abalos (13) and Sasha-Lee Thomas (10). The Aggies rotated setters Brianna Ainsworth and Alexsa Parker who hashed out 29 assists and 21 assists apiece. Ariadnne Sierra served as the libero for NM State as she knotted a total of 36 digs while Thomas and Kassandra Tohm each picked up four blocks.

The opening stanza saw eight tied scores and six lead changes as both teams fought to take control of the match. The Aggies got on the board first but the Miners stayed close behind throughout the majority of the set until a 5-2 run gave the Aggies a 25-20 victory in the set and a 1-0 advantage in the match.

The second set was another tight battle between the teams with seven knotted scores and five lead changes. NM State was leading 12-8 before UTEP called its first timeout on the court. After regrouping, the Miners dished out a 5-1 run to force NM State to call a timeout of its own as the score was tied at 13. The Miners claimed a 18-15 lead before another Aggie timeout was called but the Miners were unstoppable and took the second stanza, 25-18, to tie the match.

In the third period there were 13 tie scores and two lead changes but the Miners came out of the intermission on a mission. The Miners were up 4-0 before a block from Thomas and Abalos slowed down the Orange and Blue. However, the Miners continued to respond and the Aggies called for a timeout as the score was tied at 19. The timeout resulted to be more beneficial to the UTEP squad as it took a 22-21 lead before another timeout was called on the visitor’s side. Both teams would go on to score three points each in the set but UTEP came out on top with a 25-23 victory in the third.

UTEP scored the first two points of the fourth frame but NM State responded with a 7-1 run to take a 7-3 lead. Head coach Holly Watts took a timeout to regroup as the Aggies were up 5-10 and the squad was able to dish out 11 more points to trail the Aggies by only one point. NM State took a timeout of its own to stop the Miners from going on a run but UTEP continued to fight back. The Miners would call for two more timeouts in the frame but the 3-0 gave the Aggies a 26-24 victory in the fourth to tie the match, 2-2.

The fifth set was another close battle with four tied scores. The Miners continued to respond to every point the Aggies dished out but it was not enough as the Aggies claimed the fifth stanza, 15-12, and the match, 3-2.

UTEP closed out its 2016 with a 8-22 overall record and a 5-9 mark in Conference USA matches.