Miners begin a four-game homestand

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Ellisia Shafer, Staff Reporter

After having lost to Southern Mississippi on the road on Oct. 13, the Miners began a four-game homestand on Oct. 20 and defeated the Rice Owls in three sets in the first game.
“We started a little slow in the first set, but in the end we pushed well and everyone did a good job,” said head coach Holly Watts. “For the most part we played well, the intensity was good throughout the game and I think the defense was good.”
With the help of a kill from junior outside hitter Taylor Nix and senior middle blocker Xitlali Herrera late in the third set, the Miners swept the Owls.
“This is the first time we beat Rice in three games,” Herrera said. “It was awesome. I think our energy and intensity was really high in the three sets. It was team work, I think every single one of us played our hardest and it showed we wanted to win this game.”
The Miners held the intensity throughout, and from the outset the Miners looked to be focused, trading back-to-back points with the Owls.
Herrera, Nix and senior setter Malia Patterson combined for a total of 13 kills in the first set to help lift the Miners and take the first set, 25-23.
Going into the second set, the Miners continued to dominate, with help from Nix, Talia Jones and Herrera, who all combined for a total of 28 kills. Then followed by 22 assists that were added by Patterson, which helped the Miners outscore the Rice Owls 25-15.
The Miners continued to dominate going into the third set, carried by Herrera, who had 26 of the Miners’ 48 kills, while Patterson posted 31 assists.
The Miners took the lead by a margin of four and sealed the win with an assist from Patterson, followed by a kill by Nix, which helped the orange and blue take the third set, 25-20.
“The last play was just a result of our fight,” Nix said. “Our focus going in was one more dig, one more kill, one more block, one more of everything–just to push so we could get that next point. We didn’t let the ball drop, when there was an opportunity, we killed it.”
With the win, the Miners are now 11-7 overall and 5-2 in Conference USA, which pushes the Miners up to fifth place, behind Tulsa, Texas San Antonio, Tulane and Marshall.
“Definitely, going into the next three home games we are looking to carry in some of the same intensity and focus from this win over Rice and get the same results,” Patterson said.
The Miners will play their next three games at home at Memorial Gym, first a non-conference game against Grand Canyon on Oct. 23, followed by two more conference games. On Oct. 25, they will be pitted against the Alabama-Birmingham Blazers and on Oct. 27 they will go up against the Texas San Antonio Roadrunners.
“Home matches are always so big and so important, but when we’ve struggled this year it’s been on the road and we want to make sure we take advantage of home court,” Watts said. “We should not give anything away here at home.”
Watts said that it is crucial to get results in the upcoming games because the Miners will next play four-straight road games against Marshall, Charlotte, North Texas and New Mexico State before closing the regular season at home on Nov. 17. This year’s Conference USA tournament will take place in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Nov. 20-23.