Women’s volleyball upsets Rice 3-2 in C-USA opener

Daniel Mendez, Staff Reporter

Miners volleyball opened up Conference USA play with a 3-2 upset win over a 10-win Rice squad Friday night at Memorial Gym.

The Miners (4-10, 1-0 C-USA) prevailed in the five-set thriller against the Owls (10-5, 0-1 C-USA); 28-26, 16-25, 25-22, 19-25,16-14. With this victory, UTEP snapped the Owls’ five-game winning streak while also snapping a five-game losing streak of their own. The Miners will look to continue to build momentum as they host UAB next.

Macey Austin paced the Miner offense with a career-high 27 kills, while the rest of her teammates followed suit by dishing out kills of their own. Cheyenna Jones had 14, Briana Arellano had 12, Mallory Yost racked up eight, Briana Arellano contributed with seven and both Kylie Baumgartner and Ali Vidali had five.

Baumgartner led the Miners in block assists with seven, while the Miners had six service aces on the night, one apiece by Yost, Amanda King, Arellano, Dania Orozco, Nikki Cebak, and Jones.

In total, the Miners recorded 74 kills, 69 assists, 66 digs, 22 block assists, and six service aces. The Owls scratched and clawed with, 67 kills, 63 assists, five service aces, 77 digs, and 18 block assists.

An emotional head coach, Holly Watts after the game couldn’t have been any prouder of her team.

“Amazing, it’s the hard work paying off, they’ve worked so hard,” she said. “The consistency of the good passing was there tonight, having a hitting percentage like that, and having 24 kills in the first set was nice.”

Coming off a career night, Austin says she couldn’t have done it without her teammates.

“It feels amazing. I could not have done it without my team. That was such an exciting game,” she said. “We just wanted to come out strong and go one and 0 in our first conference game. Everyone was in it, even when you’re on the bench everyone was so in it and focused that’s how we got it.”

The Miners had to overcome two sets (second and fourth) where they started poorly. Cebak says the team works as a process and she likes that.

“First time, I think we came out with a banger. To win our first conference game right away and it’s so nice to do it at home,” she said. “We work as a process and I feel like that’s what we need to continue. Our fight, we need to continue that fight some guys we let off on the gas pedal but this time we got to keep fighting and we need that mindset.”

The Miners will continue conference play this weekend with the UAB Blazers coming into town Sunday afternoon. First serve is set for noon at Memorial Gym.