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UTEP Beach Volleyball leaves everything on the sand as season ends

The C-USA Beach Volleyball Championships took place April 25 to 27 at the Youngsville Sports Complex. Photo Courtesy of UTEP Athletics.

The UTEP Miners headed to Youngsville, LA to compete in the Conference USA (C-USA) Beach Volleyball Championship on April 25 at the Youngsville Sports Complex. The Miners were ranked in the tournament as the No. 6 seed. The UTEP Beach Volleyball season ended on day one of the tournament, following a consistent performance on the sand court.  

The tournament was divided into three days, from April 25 to 27, where the bracket followed a double-elimination style format and a single-elimination final match, according to the C-USA website.  

The tournament was filled with exceptional talent from nationally ranked schools such as Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (TCU), Florida International University Panthers (FIU), and Florida Atlantic University Owls (FAU).  

The Miners season wrapped up on Thursday morning after falling 3-0 to FAU and persevering through a close 3-2 loss against Missouri State University Bears.  

Match One 

As the gleaming sun filled the Youngsville sky, the Miners kicked off their first match on Thursday morning against the No. 3 seed of the tournament, FAU. After a tough battle, FAU swept UTEP 3-0.  

On courts 2 and 5, the Owls took a strong lead over the Miners. Graduate student Summer McDonough and junior Madison Hills of the Miners ended their last game, losing 21-12 and 21-11. The freshman pair of Alexis Massey and Adriana Oporto also lost their game 21-13 and 21-11.  

However, on court 4, close efforts from junior Ema Uskokovic and freshman Mila Popovic increased the tension on the sand by climbing up the score ladder.  Yet, the Owls won the game in two sets, 21-19 and 21-18.  

Even after the Miners battled hard, FAU finished on top, dominating, and did not drop any sets to the Miners. The Owls claimed a spot in the winner’s bracket by getting wins in courts 2, 4, and 5 and leaving courts 1 and 3 unfinished.  

Match Two 

In their next match, UTEP faced the No.7 seed Missouri State. The Miners’ persistence and determination pushed the game to extra points, but ultimately, the Bears rose and won 3-2.  

Missouri State got an early lead on court 5, but on court 1, sophomores Krista Paegle and Paulina Acuna gave the Miners their first win of the tournament, winning 21-18 and dominating the second set with a nine-point lead. Their win put the Miners on the board 1-1, ensuring they did not leave empty-handed.  

Shortly after, UTEP gained a 2-1 lead with a win from McDonough and Hill, who faced a close match, winning by a mere two points in the first set. The Bears responded and ended victorious in a tight game on court 5, tying the overall match 2-2. Seniors Katie Martin and Marian Ovalle played in an intense game that went to extra points in the second set.  

Uskokovic and Popovic found themselves in the tie-breaker match. The winning team would move onto the contender’s tournament bracket, and the losing team’s season would end.  

The duo rallied and were neck-and-neck with the Bears throughout the match. Despite their consistency and going to extra points, the Miners fell short and lost by a thread in both sets.  

In a press release, associate Head Coach Daniel Foo expressed his contentment with the team’s achievements they collected this season, especially as a program that is younger and inexperienced. 

“I am so incredibly proud of all these ladies. We made huge strides in our style of play, both offensively and defensively. We are bringing an exciting brand of volleyball, and it was great to have a winning season,” Foo said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a lot of experience in post-season play, and I think that cost us a bit. It won’t happen again, and I know this team will be better next year.” 

The Miners Beach Volleyball program collected 12 wins this season, a remarkable growth following their rookie 2023 season. According to a press release courtesy of UTEP Athletics, the Miners were resilient and earned the program’s first wins in a conference tournament. The UTEP Beach Volleyball program has wrapped up the 2024 season filled with immense growth and stepping-stone moments. 

Melissa Herrera is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Melissa Herrera
Melissa Herrera, Contributor/Writer
Melissa Herrera is a senior here at UTEP, majoring in multimedia journalism and minoring in marketing. Melissa is a contributor for The Prospector. She plans to pursue a career as a news reporter after she graduates.
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