Miners straight-set victory seals sweep of Roadrunners


Courtesy of UTEP

Junior Serena Patterson spikes the ball over the net for a kill against UTSA Feb. 23.

The UTEP volleyball team (4-3, 3-1 C-USA) won in three sets (25-17, 25-22, 25-23) Tuesday to preserve a two-match sweep of the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners (3-7, 2-2) Tuesday evening at Memorial Gym. 

On Sunday, the Miners led for all but the first point of the first set and led 23-20, needing only two more points for victory when two costly errors and a service ace from UTSA’s Thaddie Meyer locked the score at 23. The Miners responded by getting to set point but then gave up three straight points to fall 26-24. 

Outside hitter, Paulina Perez Rosas entered the second set off the bench with thoughts of UTEP’s history versus UTSA in the back of her head. “My mindset was going hard and physical,” Perez Rosas said. “This is our house and we’ve got to win.” 

Perez Rosas did not enter during the first set after connecting for just four kills on 24 attacks in UTEP’s first match against UAB Feb. 14 and playing in only one set the following day. 

In its opening set loss, UTEP gave away nine points on attack errors. The Miners had just 10 in the final three sets combined. 

In the second set, the Miners never trailed as the dominant front line pounded the Roadrunners with 13 kills in the set. Serena Patterson had five kills. Perez Rojas had three and Kenidy Howard had three. The Miners steamrolled the Roadrunners 25-10 in the second set. 

Trailing 19-18 in a keenly contested third set, Perez Rojas went on to record 4 of her six kills in the final seven points of the set as the Miners pulled away from UTSA to win the set 25-20. 

Once again trailing 20-16 in the fourth and final set of the match, the Miners kept their composure and reeled off five of the next six points to tie the match at 21 apiece. Both teams moved to 22 apiece with the Miners out of substitutions. Patterson recorded two of the final three kills for the Miners as the team pulled out its first victory over UTSA in 10 years(24-26, 25-10, 25-20, 25-23)  3 sets to 1. 

“I was going to come out and see what it was like with (outside hitters Alianza Darley and Cheyenne Jones) on the right side,” UTEP Volleyball Head Coach Ben Wallis said. “But I had a feeling in my gut that I was going to go with (Perez Rosas) on the left to move (outside hitter Serena Patterson over to the right) because (Perez Rosas) just helps us do so many things over there.” 

Patterson led the team with 19 total kills on the day and Perez Rojas came on strong after she entered the game with 13 kills. Howard tied her career-high with 10 kills and Kristen Fritsche had 36 assists. 

“We came out and served it real tough but offensively, I was really pleased by what we did today, Wallis said. “We suffocated them from the service line, which is what we want to do to teams. If we stay back there and stay aggressive, teams will have a challenging time scoring against us.” 

The Miners hit a combined .545 on 22 swings while UTSA hit -.040 in the frame. 

In its opening set loss, UTEP gave away nine points on attack errors. The Miners had just 10 in the final three sets combined. 

On Tuesday, the Miners came out in the first set with its front-line featuring Rojas Perez and Patterson as UTEP jumped out to an early 5-1 lead. UTSAs Kirby Smith then led a comeback and after back-to-back kills, the score was tied at 9. The Miners then were able to reel off the next six points taking advantage of UTSAs forced errors opening a 15-9 lead. 

After stretching its lead to 18-12, Ava Palms three straight service aces propelled the Miners to a 25-17 opening set victory. 

In the second set, the Miners were able to minimalize mistakes as the Roadrunners went on to make eight service errors to only three for UTEP. Howard got the final two kills of the set as the Miners held off UTSA 25-22. 

Sensing blood in the water, the Miners came out and scored the third set’s first five pointsThroughout the first part of the set, the Miners controlled the front line and were leading 12-5 until the Roadrunners ran off five straight points to get back into the match. 

After again going on a scoring streak, the Roadrunners would draw even at 18 points.  

After forcing two straight errors, the Miners were back in control at 21-18 but again, the Roadrunners clawed back into the match and were trailing at match point 24-23 when Patterson had her second kill in a row for the Miners to close out the match 25-23 and preserve the sweep. 

Perez Rosas paced the team with 12 kills and Fritsche led the team in assists with 20. 

“We had 11 aces in three sets which is astronomical, Wallis said. “We served it really well, with Palm having six aces on her own. She continually was pinpointing serve after serve and gave UTSA trouble all day.” 

Howard drew praise for her all-around play and leadership for the weekend, where she had 17 total kills in 7 sets as she has continued to fill the void in the middle after offseason departures at that position. 

“I am proud of my team’s effort knowing that we only had two practices and beat a team as talented as UTSA, Wallis said. ” This is the first time UTEP has ever swept UTSA in C-USA history.” 

Serena Patterson had a great weekend; she was very active defensively after moving from the left to the right this weekend.  

The Miners travel on the road to play noon Feb. 28 and March 1 at the University of North Texas in Denton. 

Michael Cuviello and Heriberto Perez may be reached at [email protected]