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Miners pick up two conference wins at home

Senior+middle+blocker+Xitlali+Herrera+forced+10+kills+against+the+Florida+International+Golden+Panthers+Oct.+6+at+Memorial+Gym.
Veronica Enriquez/The Prospector
Senior middle blocker Xitlali Herrera forced 10 kills against the Florida International Golden Panthers Oct. 6 at Memorial Gym.

The UTEP volleyball team came away with two victories in their opening Conference USA home stand as they defeated both Florida Atlantic and Florida International.

The Miners opened their conference slate on Oct. 4 against the Florida Atlantic Owls. Despite losing the first set, 25-17, the Miners, led by seniors Xitlati Herrera and Talia Jones with 17 and 15 kills respectively, won the next three sets and the game.

Coming off this victory the Miners returned to Memorial Gym with anther good performance to defeat the Golden Panthers in three sets (27-29, 15-25, 24-26).

“FIU is tough. They play a little bit of a different style than we are used to, but I thought we did a really good job in keying in on their big guns and working hard on defense to give ourselves another chance,” said head coach Holly Watts. “I am happy with the way we pushed during the sets. However, I am not happy with the way we were down such that we needed to come back but I am happy we did. I thought Morris went in and did a great job and then Larson on the right side, both did a great job in their roles.”

UTEP dominated early, led by Herrera, Malia Patterson and other key contributors such as Taylor Nix, Madison Morrison and Lindsey Larson, who helped to combine for a total of 49 kills, 39 digs and 48 assists (39 from Patterson).

The Miners were in control throughout the game, as Herrera scored early, off an assist by Patterson, who helped to lift the Miners in the first set with six kills and three digs.

Led by a margin of five throughout the first set, the Miners rallied defensively to hold FIU, 29-27.

Going into the second set, the Miners continued to dominate FIU with the help of Nix, who had a total of six kills, followed by 13 assists from Patterson, which helped UTEP finish 25-15 going into the third set.

The Miners struggled in the third set and were down by at least five in the beginning of the third, but they rallied back to tie the game at 24 with help from a serve by sophomore Talia Jones, which allowed Herrera to score (25-24). That was followed by a serve from Jones that was returned by a kill from
Herrera, which helped the Miners take game three (26-24).

“The last point was a good one, it was a great serve from Talia, who made them pass it over,” Herrera said. “I thought it was going to be over the net, but it was one of those plays I just wanted to return it anyway, and it turned out to be a good combination of serve and me being right there.”

The Miners are now 3-1 in Conference play, and they will now go on the road to face Middle Tennessee State and Southern Miss on Oct. 11 and 13, respectively.

“Definitely, we need to keep our intensity up,” Patterson said. “We know we can beat a lot of these teams, so it’s mostly our confidence in ourselves and just as a team, and keeping that intensity on the court throughout the whole match is our main goal.”

UTEP will return to Memorial Gym on Oct. 20 to take on Rice. Watts said the team would be ready to take on these upcoming rivals.

“Going forward, we are going to continue to work on execution. I think, overall, our game plan is good, our system is good, so we just have to keep working on making our system better,” Watts said. “I thought the intensity was really good, and certainly with the compact and the two serves, we had to have some
intensity so that we don’t give too many things away.”

Ellisia Shafer may be reached at [email protected].

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Miners pick up two conference wins at home