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UTEP defeats Conference USA defending champions, Tulsa in five sets (25-17, 18-25, 25-16, 25-27, 15-11) on Sunday.
“Tulsa is really good and they don’t give you anything,” said head coach Ken Murphy. “We knew going into the match that we would have to create an opportunities that we were going to get. I think the best thing we did was kept fighting and putting pressure on them.”
In what proved to be a team effort, Jeane Horton led the Miners attack with 22 kills and nine blocks (1s/8a). Teammates Xitlali Herrera and Bridget Logan each posted 11 kills versus the Golden Hurricane. Herrera earned her eighth double-double of the season with 16 digs and added five block assists.
“I think it really took every kid on that team to get that win we were really balanced offensively and we played really good team defense,” said Murphy. “We blocked particularly well and when we did that it allowed us to play great defense and score points.”
Setter Malia Patterson not only recorded another double-double, but also struck with a match-high 52 assists. The junior also tallied 15 digs and five block assists for the Miners defensive efforts. Senior Cassandra Burruel earned her fourth double-digit block effort of the season with 11 block assists.
El Paso native Amber Massey dug a team-best and career-high 18 digs in the Miners victory against conference leader, Tulsa.
UTEP (15-11, 9-5 C-USA) compiled 61 kills, 58 assists, 86 digs and hit .236 in the match-up. The Miner were a force at the net with a total of 17 blocks and maintained Tulsa to a .133 hitting efficiency including a -.022 in the third set and a .000 in the final stanza.
Tulsa took an early 6-4 lead at the beginning of the first frame, but UTEP would fight back with a 3-1 run with a kill by Horton and Cason and a Golden Hurricane error to tie the frame 7-7. The Golden Hurricane pulled ahead of the Miners with a pair of kills, but UTEP answered back with three straight kills by Logan to once again tie the frame, 10-10. Tulsa would commit three back-to-back errors to give UTEP a 13-10 edge. The Golden Hurricane would score one more point until Herrera struck with a pair of kills followed by a block combo by Horton and Herrera. The Miners powered ahead with a 7-1 run led by two straight blocks by Horton and Burruel, 23-14. Tulsa would score two kills, but Cason hammered two last kills to close the set, 25-17.
The second frame began much like the first with Tulsa taking a 9-4 advantage forcing UTEP to call an early timeout. The Golden Hurricane surged to a 5-1 run taking a 14-6 lead. Tulsa would score three more points until the Miners registered three consecutive points to cut the Golden Hurricane lead. Tulsa would post three points before UTEP pulled together a 9-1 run led by a pair of blocks by duo Burruel and Horton, 18-21. The Miners picked up the momentum but it wasn’t enough as Tulsa took the stanza, 25-18.
At the start of the third set, both squads fought for control of the set going back and forward. UTEP put together a 3-1 run with two straight kills by Herrera to take a 7-5 edge over the Golden Hurricane. Tulsa would not relent, striking with a 4-1 run with two kills by Kellie Culbertson. The Miners battled back with Horton striking again with a kill and block and a kill by Burruel to take a one-point advantage at 10-9. The teams would trade points, until UTEP struck nine straight points led by Horton and Burruel, who posted four and three kills, respectively. Tulsa would commit three attack errors give the Miners the set at 25-16.
The fourth set saw 11 ties and four lead changes. Both teams battled for control at the start of the frame, but UTEP tallied a 6-1 run led by Horton who hammered two kills and two block assists to take a 9-5 advantage sending Tulsa to the bench for a timeout. The Golden Hurricane would register five points to pull within one at12-11. The Miners maintained the lead, until three straight Tulsa kills gave the Golden Hurricane a two-point edge. Tulsa would not back down recording a 5-1 run to pull ahead of the Miners at 24-21.UTEP would not go down without a fight as they strung together four straight points to take a one point lead at 25-24. Tulsa answered back with two kill and block to close the set, 27-25.
UTEP came out of the gate strong posting a 5-1 run to take a 5-3 lead with a pair of kills by Herrera, a kill by Cason and an ace by Valencia. Tulsa forced UTEP to call a timeout as they registered a four consecutive points. The Miners regrouped and wasted no time as they surged to a 6-1 run to take a 12-8 advantage in the final set of the night. Tulsa would come as close as 11-13, but the Miners would not let go of the lead as Cason hammered two final kills to seal the match, 15-11.
UTEP will hit the road to take on East Carolina at 5 p.m. (MT) on Friday and Marshall at 11 a.m. on Sunday.
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