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New Mexico State tops UTEP in five-set thriller

(Courtesy: UTEP Athletics)

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - As three Miners recorded career-highs, UTEP volleyball maintained an admirable fight Wednesday evening against I-10 rival NM State in a highly competitive five-set battle before the Aggies were able to squeeze out a 3-2 win. 

UTEP drops down to 11-6 overall (3-3 Conference USA) while NM State improves to 12-5 (5-1 CUSA). 

Four Miners recorded double-digit kills combining for 53 kills. UTEP kill leaders, Marian Ovalle and Danika Washington, set career-highs with 15 kills each while Sakira LaCour (13) and Kaya Weaver (10) got after it as well. 

Kalia Kohler directed the offense with 30 assists helping the Miners to a .228 hitting clip.

Alyssa Sianez and Torrance Lovesee each had double-digit digs with 11 and 10 respectively. 

Washington stuffed a match-high seven total blocks with Weaver and Alianza Darley going up for five each.  

UTEP held the statistical advantage in kills (62-54), hitting percentage (.228 - .201), and aces (9-4, but were out blocked (16-14). 

SET ONE | A wild start to open the match consisted of 16 tied scores with both teams going back and forth on taking over as set leader. Weaver drew three consecutive points with two kills and a block as UTEP led, 8-6. UTEP's next six points were all kills by four different Miners and an Aggie error, 14-11. NM State whipped out a 5-0 run to regain the lead, 15-14. Two kills by LaCour and Lovesee with an ace by Mattie Gantt flip the set back to UTEP, 19-18. NM State was first to set point, 24-23. The set went into extras resulting in an Aggie 29-17 win. 

SET TWO | NM State grabbed a 9-5 lead forcing an early UTEP timeout. The Aggies had a 3-0 run due to a successful challenge to lead by four, 13-9. UTEP responded with three straights to shrink the deficit, 13-12. The Miners tied the set at 16 and 17 all on two NMSU errors. UTEP got three more kills before the Aggies closed the set at 25-22 for the 2-0 advantage in the match. 

SET THREE | Both teams went back and forth in the first half of the third frame as UTEP got a hold of the lead with NMSU only being able to knot things up on six occasions before UTEP ran up a 4-0 lead go into and coming out of the media timeout, 17-12. Weaver's dominance at the net forced an Aggie timeout, 20-14. Four Miners put down four more kills to stay in the match, 25-18. 

SET FOUR | UTEP duplicated set three with another 25-18 win. The Miners remained in full control of the set, never giving up the lead to the Aggies. Six kills by the Miners and two NMSU errors forced an NMSU timeout at 8-4 and again at 14-7. UTEP's Washington, Weaver, and Darley stretched the lead by eight, 19-11. UTEP ended the set with four kills by four Miners to even out the match and force a fifth set.  

SET FIVE | it all came down to execution in the final set. The Aggies led 8-6 at the media timeout. Coming out of the break, both teams put down back-to-back points to force the opponent to sidebar. Each team went 1-for-1 for five serves until NMSU knocked in two going into set point. UTEP had one final kill by Ovalle before NMSU walked away with the 15-12 win.

UTEP will host FIU Oct. 7-8 inside Memorial Gym at 5 p.m. and 12 p.m. MT.

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