UTEP beats Weber State to advance to NIVC Final Four

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Photo courtesy of Ruben Ramirez

The UTEP volleyball team celebrates with UTEP President Heather Willson after winning against Webster State at UTEP Dec. 7 at Memorial Gym.

Emily Autumn Velasquez , Sports Editor

On Tuesday night UTEP (24-7) came out victorious over Weber State (22-10) in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Quarterfinals after a three-hour marathon that consisted of five sets in front of a packed house. 

The scores consisted of 25-21, 24-26, 25-23, 34-36, 15-9 where the Miners managed to convert their 8-match point in this victory.  

In this victory, three Miners accomplished season-high stats in the matchup against Weber State. 

Senior outside hitter Paulina Perez Rosas led the Miners with 20 kills, 22.5 points and 18 digs. Senior outside hitter Serena Patterson had six service aces and 10 digs. Freshman setter Ryley Frye also managed to get in 12 digs to help the Miners win. 

Junior outside hitter and middle blocker Alianza Darley contributed to the team with 10 kills and senior setter Kristen Fritsche had 26 assists for UTEP. 

For Weber State, senior offensive hitter Rylin Adams had 22 kills and six aces. Sophomore offensive hitter Dani Nay contributed to the Wildcats with 19 kills while sophomore Emma Mangum had 11 kills. Senior setter Ashlyn Power delivered 51 assists in their loss while freshman Makayla Sorensen had 25 digs. 

Darley’s kill is what cemented the win for the after a 9-0 scoring run to close out set 1. The Miners were down 14-6 at one point but managed to rally and win with the help of Perez Rosas and her trio of kills. 

In the second set, the Miners were down 15-12 before they managed to take a 22-20 advantage. But Weber State tightened up on defense and scored three of the last four points to take the set and tie the match. 

Set three consisted of an intense back and forth set that resulted in UTEP taking advantage of the match after a kill from junior middle blocker Yasso Amin. 

This match was both intense and long as they had 12 set-points where Weber State managed to come out victorious after they closed out the set with a trio of kills to force a fifth set and tie the match. 

Next came the final set where UTEP managed to take a quick lead. Three consecutive kills from Perez Rosas and a service ace by sophomore defensive specialist Alyssa Sianez led to the Miners having an 8-2 advantage in the set. The Wildcats managed to cut the lead to 11-9 but were shut down after UTEP went on a 4-0 run to win the match. 

This was UTEP’s first time ever hosting postseason matchups as they hosted both the Weber State vs UTEP match along with the Arkansas vs UNLV matchup beforehand. 

Memorial Gym was packed with 2,099 fans to witness one of the biggest matches in the program’s history and to help make it one of the longest and most-watched ever in Memorial Gym.  

UTEP is the last Conference USA team remaining in the playoffs. Head Coach Ben Wallis helped lead the Miners to the semifinals of the C-USA tournament last month. 

“I’m really proud of my group and we just keep finding ways to win,” Head Coach Ben Wallis said. “We all don’t want the season to end, and they keep earning-I’m really proud of them.” 

This was the first time UTEP has ever been invited to the NIVC in their history and now they are in the semifinals and part of the final four.  

The Miners will face off against UNLV (26-9) at 7 P.M. at Memorial Gym on Dec. 9 for the NIVC Semifinals. 

Stats used acquired with the help of UTEP Athletics, Weber State Athletics, and WomensNIVC.com. 

Emily Autumn Velasquez is the sports editor and can be reached at [email protected]; @emilyautumn20 on Twitter.