(Courtesy: UTEP Athletics)
EL PASO, Texas - The Miners registered a season-high .500 hitting clip and dealt 12 aces Saturday afternoon to sweep Jacksonville State, 3-0, inside a rocking Memorial Gym filled with 1,400 fans.
"We continue to grow and get better," head coach Ben Wallis said. "Right now, we're making adjustments and changes in what we're doing, and it's fun to see our team get excited about that. We really wanted to come out at home in front of our 'Memorial Maniacs' and get back to playing good volleyball in front of them. I was really proud of our two crowds. We want to show up for our city, and our city is hungry to watch a winner. That's what these guys are."
UTEP (10-5, 2-2 Conference USA) held Jax State to 15 points or less in each set (25-14, 25-9, 25-15).
"Anytime you have a losing streak you want to end it, and you want to end it the right way," head coach Ben Wallis said. "For this team to not score over 20 points against us in six sets is a big deal. It was our intentional thought process when it came to our goals for what we wanted. We wanted to come out and get back to stopping people, not just scoring."
Kaya Weaver hit double-digit kills to lead the Miners, notching 10 kills while hitting .533. Sakira LaCour and Beatrice Gennari put up three blocks each, a personal-best for Gennari. UTEP's setter trio combined for 29 assists to help the UTEP defense to a .500 hitting clip.
UTEP's all-around performance held the statistical advantage in kills (39-21), hitting percentage (.500 - .062), aces (12-3), and total blocks (6-2).
SET ONE | The Miners came out with all guns blazing for five straight points to open the match. UTEP held a comfortable eight-point lead, 12-4, after two kills by Torrance Lovesee and Danika Washington. Three straight bullets went unanswered as UTEP stretch out to an 18-6 lead. Jax State rallied for a 4-0 scoring run to shrink the deficit, 21-12, but the Gamecocks pushed the Miners in front from three of their own errors sending the Orange and Blue to set point, 24-12. Jax State knocked in two more points before a LaCour kill sealed the first set win, 25-14.
SET TWO | UTEP dominated set two holding Jax State to only nine points consisting of three UTEP errors. The Miners issued two 6-point scoring runs and one 5-0 run. UTEP had three kills by three Miners in its first run, 8-2. Jax State posted a kill and an ace before UTEP ran up four more kills with two aces by Kalia Kohler, 14-4. Weaver slammed down two kills while Lovesee racked up two aces and Alianza Darley got a kill in as well to round out another run, 19-5. UTEP closed out the set, 25-9, with three consecutive kills, two by Lovesee and one by Beatrice Gennari.
SET THREE | Jax State tied the set early on, 4-4, with a pair of kills. UTEP ran with the lead, courtesy of a kill by Lovesee, an ace by Gennari and two JSU errors, 10-5. Both teams went one-for-one for five points as UTEP held the six-point advantage, 16-10. UTEP launched a scoring burst that included back-to-back aces by Hande Yetis, 21-10. As the Miners approached set point, UTEP gave up three points to the Gamecocks, before Weaver smacked down one last kill for the win, 25-15.
Final Thoughts from Coach Wallis
"We've played a lot of good teams this year, and we know that we're good. The whole question with this team is how are we progressing towards great? Right now, we're in a place where I think we've got a lot of weapons. We're pretty dangerous. To be able to lose a player like Sara (Pustahija), who has done so much for us this season already, was one our most consistent (players). She's one of the best servers that we have in our program. To lose her and have the ability to come home and just add more players that we have from our lineup into the game from the bench says a lot about our depth and our program. It tells you how hungry our players are, how good we are and how good we can be. We're a good scoring team, but we hadn't stopped people in three or four matches. That's something that we've done here. Let's look at the other side of the net and stop what they want to do, not just focus on us. We need to focus on stopping the other team. It was good to see that our team was intentional about that. We're going to need that on Tuesday and Wednesday because NM State is a handful."
UTEP will travel to Las Cruces, N.M., as it takes on I-10 Rival, NM State, Oct. 3-4. The Miners will then welcome FIU for a pair of matches, Oct. 7-8.