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UTEP volleyball faces first loss at Borderland Invitational Tournament

Libero%2FDefensive+specialist%2C+Ava+Martindale%2C+celebrates+a+score+with+her+teammates+during+a+set+against+San+Francisco+Aug.+31.++
Joel Molina
Libero/Defensive specialist, Ava Martindale, celebrates a score with her teammates during a set against San Francisco Aug. 31.
The UTEP volleyball team (4-1) finally made its way back to the Memorial Gym this past weekend for the annual Borderland Invitational Tournament, which ran from Thursday, Aug. 31 to Saturday, Sept 2.

The UTEP volleyball team (4-1) finally made its way back to the Memorial Gym this past weekend for the annual Borderland Invitational Tournament, which ran from Thursday, Aug. 31 to Saturday, Sept 2. 

The event hosted the Miners, the University of San Francisco Dons (USF) (2-4) and the Arizona State Sun Devils (ASU) (6-0). Games were held both at Memorial Gym and the Pan-American Center on New Mexico States’ campus in Las Cruces, New Mexico. 

The Miners would start the weekend with an advantage playing at home against USF Thursday night. Over 1,000 fans poured into Memorial Gym to watch a volleyball team who made it all the way to the Conference USA Volleyball Tournament semifinals just last season. 

Hype surrounded the team leading up to the weekend as longtime volleyball fan and father-in-law of Head Coach Ben Wallis, Jay Nye, described prior to the match versus USF. 

“I think it’s going to be a good season,” Nye said. “I think they have a lot of depth at all different positions and they’re pretty strong. So, I think they’re going to do well this year.”  

Tawny Davis, a former play-by-play announcer for UTEP volleyball, also expressed excitement for the upcoming season. 

“I’m very excited for them,” Davis said. “I know Ben (Walis) has worked really hard for the girls to make sure that they are at their peak athleticism. So, I am hoping that really transfers over to today’s game.” 

The Miners would go to dominate the first set leaving the Dons with 13 points. Unfortunately for Wallis and his squad, the tables would turn in the second set as the team fell to USF 25-13. The Miners would then close out the night after once again dominating in the final two sets giving UTEP its fourth consecutive win of the season. 

UTEP edged out USF in kills with 47 to the Dons’ 34. Blocks, assists and digs all went to UTEP throughout the night as both teams would match in aces with five a piece. 

Sophomore hitter Sara Pustahija lead the team with 13 kills while recording three blocks and one ace. Graduate Student hitter and blocker Alianza Darley came off the bench to add nine kills to UTEP’s sum. 

The Miners would then take a short trip up to Las Cruces to face the PAC-12 juggernaut ASU Friday evening. 

There, UTEP would be handed its first loss of the season as the team could not catch up to ASU’s offensive downpour. 

The Miners would fall early losing the first two sets of the match. Thanks to a competitive 25-19 effort in the third set, UTEP would force a fourth set, preventing the shut out. This effort would not be enough for the team as it would fall 25-10 in the final set. 

Darley led the team in kills with nine while graduate student blocker and Oral Roberts transfer Sakira LaCour trailed closely with eight kills. Senior hitter Marian Ovalle and Pustahija both noted six kills. 

After the game, Wallis expressed his admiration for the powerhouse ASU team. 

“ASU is a really good, veteran team and they didn’t lose their identity for very long,” said Wallis via press release. “As a team, we still had a good attack percentage against a team that has been holding people down to low percentages, but their service pressure was too great for us, and we just stumbled. Tough loss, but we’re staying in the present.” 

The Miners will now head to Athens, Ohio for the Bobcat Invitational which will take place between Sept. 7, and Sept. 9. 

UTEP will return to El Paso Sept. 28, for its two-game series against Jax State at Memorial Gym. 

All statistics are provided by UTEP Athletics. 

Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela Armendariz is the sports editor and may be reached at [email protected]: @rivasemmanuel2 on Instagram 

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About the Contributors
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela, Contributor/Writer
Emmanuel Rivas Valenzuela is a contributor for The Prospector. He is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism with minors in political science and Chicano studies. Emmanuel served as sports editor at The Prospector and as a writer with Minero Magazine. Now, Emmanuel is interning at El Paso Matters and is a contributor at The Prospector.
Joel Molina
Joel Molina, Photo Editor
Joel is a graduate creative writing student at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is the photo editor who began his career at The Prospector in 2022. He hopes to continue providing the world and its people with different forms of storytelling that will hopefully make their day to day lives better.
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