Miners open UTEP Invitational with win over Southern and loss to Oral Roberts

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Aaron Montes / The Prospector

Luis Barrio, Contributor

Coming off a tough season opening schedule versus the reigning National Champions, Texas Longhorns, and powerhouse programs San Diego and Hawaii, the Miners began their season home debut against Southern and won in straight sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-16).

“It feels great, it feels good to have it out of the way,” said head coach Holly Watts. “I think we were a little bit up and down, but for the most part I thought we did very well. The lows weren’t very long, so that was good. It was a good team effort.”

Contributions came from the whole team. The Miners began with 18 kills in the first game, led by senior Xitlali Herrera and sophomore Talia Jones who each had 5 kills in the first game.

“We could’ve done better but it was a good first home game,” Herrera said. “It was a little bit nerve racking playing in front of the home crowd. We’re hoping to do better tonight (against Oral Roberts University).”

In the second game with the Miners up 11-7, Herrera smashed the ball for a kill, but before getting to celebrate the point, the referee called her for interfering with the net and gave the point to Southern. On the very next play, Herrera came down on the Southern defense with another vicious kill.

“I didn’t feel like I touched the net,” Herrera said. “In the play right after I made sure I didn’t touch the net so I killed it.”

In what would be the third and final game, the Miners played with poise and were led by senior Victoria Valencia’s high velocity serve and defensive digs. The Miners only allowed Southern to put up 16 points and never let them get a streak of more than 3 points in the set. Valencia had her own streak of aces in the third game with her high toss serve.

“Since I never get to hit the ball (being a defensive specialist position), I like to serve and hit the ball really hard,” Valencia said.

The Miners will get back on the court at 7 p.m. against Oral Roberts in the nightcap of the tournament.

“We got a good team effort, we got a chance to get everybody out there,” Watts said.

UTEP began its home debut in its own tournament at the Utep Invitational and defeated Southern University in straight games. Its next foe would be the Golden Eagles of Oral Roberts University the same day. The Golden Eagles are projected to finish second in the Southland Conference preseason poll.

Coach Watts said postgame of the Southern University win.

“We need to make sure we’re really focused because Oral Roberts is a good team.”

Later at night the Miners faced the Golden Eagles on their second game of the day. The Miners lost the first point of the match, then won the next point to tie it. After that, the Miners never trailed or tied with the Golden Eagles, winning the set (25-16). From that moment on, the match between the Miners and the Golden Eagles was a battle of fortitude and would require endurance because the competition was so close between the two. Points were exchanged back and forth.

In the second set, the Miners were down most of the way. The teams were tied at 10-10 in the second set and would not have the same score until it was 21-21. The Miners would end up losing the second set and share one game apiece with the Golden Eagles.

The third game saw the Miners leading most of the way until rendering their lead late in the match and falling 26-24.

In the huddle leading into the fourth set, the Miners played hard but fell 26-24. Overall, it was a competitive match and went down to extra points every set.

Luis Barrio may be reached at [email protected]