UTEP Volleyball goes 2-2 in Borderland Invitational at the Don

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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Over the weekend, the UTEP women’s volleyball team played in their annual Borderland Invitational, winning two matches against Brown University and Robert Morris University, and losing two matches to Denver University and the University of Oklahoma, all at the Don Haskins Center from Sept. 10-12.

It was the first time the UTEP women’s volleyball team played a match at the Don Haskins Center since 2001.

The invitational started Thursday with a tough battle against the Denver Pioneers. Last season, the Miners were easily beat in four sets on the road against the Pioneers. Right from the start the Miners were out to prove it would be no easy match this time around.

The Miners battled back from two sets down, but eventually lost in the fifth set, 15-9. The Pioneers ended the match on an 8-2 run after the set was tied at 7-7. Proud of the way they fought to get back into the match, the Miners were disappointed with how they played in the clutch moments of the match.

“We played this team last year and it was a quick four (sets),” said senior outside hitter Talia Jones. “So coming back and fighting to five (sets)–that was big. But we need to piece it together those last couple of points (in the fifth set).”

With a double header looming on Friday, the Miners took the short time to recover and did not disappoint. In the morning session, the Miners played another grueling five-set match against the Brown Bears.

This time the Miners would be on the winning side, as they won the last four points of the fifth set to win 15-11. The Miners had a chance to win the match in the fourth set with a match point at 25-24, but could not convert.

The consistency and focus that eluded the Miners in their Thursday fifth-set loss to Denver was nowhere to be found on Friday morning.

“That (fifth set) was exactly what we were looking for yesterday,” Jones said after the match. “We thought that we improved from yesterday and that’s what we’ve been working on. It was really exciting to actually do it and not just talk about it.”

Along with the win, three Miners posted career highs against Brown. Lindsay Larson posted 62 assists and 27 digs, junior defensive specialist Sarah Villa registered 35 digs and Talia Jones notched 24 kills.

In the night session, the Miners played their best match of the invitational, defeating Robert Morris in four sets. Despite a lapse in focus in the second set, the Miners were in control of the match from the beginning, with a dominant 25-12 first set.

Sophomore outside hitter Coline Coessens had nine kills in the third set alone, which helped the Miners take a stranglehold of the match before finishing things off with a 25-18 fourth set.

“We had a really bad taste (in our mouth) from last night, where we definitely could have beat Denver,” Coessens said Friday night. “I think today was a pretty good example of how we can play as a team.”

On the final day, the Miners had a tall task ahead of them in their matchup against the Big-12 powerhouse, the Oklahoma Sooners. Despite a well-contested first set, the Miners were quickly disposed of in straight sets.

Fatigue from playing four matches in three days and little to no energy made the Miners easy work for the Sooners.

“Not to give ourselves any excuses, but we were pretty tired,” said head coach Holly Watts after the match. “We just have to will ourselves to that next swing, to jump again and go for that dig one more time.”

All things considered, it was a successful invitational for the Miners. Last season, the Miners won only one home match; in one day alone this weekend, the Miners won two matches on their home floor.

“Anytime you can win at home that’s awesome,” Watts said. “I’m excited that we already have four wins on the season, we had six wins last season. As conference (play) gets here, we’ll be ready for that.”

When asked which players stood out over the course of this weekend, Watts commended her three outside hitters Talia Jones, Coline Coessens and Dalainee Perry for their increased workload. Lindsay Larson and Sarah Villa also received praise from coach Watts.

“I like so many things about this team,” Watts said. “I’m really excited about our potential as we put it all together. We have to add some offense to our defense, our defense has been really good.”

Although Watts and her team were grateful to play in the Don Haskins Center for the first time in more than a decade, they cannot wait return to Memorial Gym.

“I’m excited to get back on our place with our new floor,” Watts said. “The girls are looking forward to it also. The team was so excited to play here (Haskins Center), but it’s kind of a double edge sword. (The Haskins Center) is so big and our crowd is not huge, so at times it was dead quiet. Whereas at Memorial Gym, the same size crowd sounds amazing, it a real home court feel and we can’t wait to get back.”

The wait is over, as the Miners will take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders at the newly renovated Memorial Gym at 5:30 p.m. tonight, Sept 16.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]

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