The Roadrunner volleyball team (2-4) hosted the UTSA Classic in the Convocation Center Sept. 5-7. The ‘Runners faced the University of Houston, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and the University of Maryland.

The ‘Runners faced the Houston Cougars for the opening match of the tournament Friday, Sept. 5. In an intense four set match, the ‘Runners opened with a fierce back and forth first set. Sophomores Hannah Lopez (12 kills, 10 digs) and Kirby Smith (10 kills, 11 digs) registered double-doubles in the first matchup, and they tied the team with with two double-double results in four matches.

Lopez offered strong scoring opportunities on the outside and pulled the ‘Runners ahead with a three point lead, the first of the match. The Cougars activated their middles and attempted to close the gap, but freshman setter Courtney Walters closed the set with a service ace. Walters pulled the Cougars out of rotation to end with three passing errors and a ‘Runner back row attack (25-19).

The second set mirrored the first as the score was neck and neck and resulted with Houston taking the set. The UTSA block struggled with the line shots from the Houston outside hitter, committing four miscues. Tied at 16, the Cougars answered with nine of the 12 final points and barred the ‘Runners from scoring opportunities as a passing error closed the set 25-19, ‘Runners trailing.

Errors plagued the third set as the ‘Runners tallied hitting and blocking errors early in the set. ‘Runners trudged Houston for the duration of the third set and looked to Smith who netted four of the next 10 points. Struggling to hit around the block and cover the hitters on defense, the ‘Runners sacrificed the set (25-20).
During the final set, the ‘Runners lost their momentum and were trailing Houston. Sophomore Mia Perales recorded her second consecutive 20-plus assist performance with 23 assists. Senior Brianna McCulloch (.367) converted 12 of 30 kill opportunities and freshman Bianca Ejesieme posted a .333 average.

The back row defense was the deciding factor of this set. Fighting off four match points, the ‘Runners erred a serve-receive pass and derailed the comeback, allowing the Cougars to capitalize (25-21).

The ‘Runners then faced the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros with a 3-0 sweep for the only ‘Runner win in the tournament.

Beginning set one, both teams converted almost 40 percent of their attacking attempts. The ‘Runners held the advantage as they pulled away with a 9-4 run, but the Vaqueros answered back by closing the gap to 22-18. Kills by Lopez, Ejesieme and McCulloch sealed the fate of the ‘Runners, closing the set 25-22.

The second set offered more resistance with five ties and three lead changes. Smith, Ejesieme and Jenna Patton recorded nine kills apiece, and Walters continues her streak of double-digit assists. The ‘Runners closed the game with a 22-13 lead as Perales, who recorded 15 assists for the match, recorded an ace and another assist to Madeline McKay to close the set (25-16).

The final set resembled the previous one as the score remained tight. Patton covered six of her seven attempts as the victory came into sight. The ‘Runners closed the match with a 17-4 run to end the match with a third set score of 25-11.

The last opponent the ‘Runners faced were the Maryland Terps. The ‘Runners fell to Maryland in four sets to close the tournament.

The ‘Runners claimed the lead with a six point win in the first set with senior libero Emily Ramirez matching Smith with 10 digs for the set. Hannah Roberts recorded a team-high with 13 kills, and Smith registered her third double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs. The ‘Runners took the first set 25-19.

Throughout the second set, both teams traded the lead, but at 20-20 Maryland claimed the final score and closed the set with five of the final six points at 25-22. Perales and Walters accounted for 41 of the team’s assists.

The Terps kept the ‘Runners out of system for the third set as the ‘Runners trailed behind for the duration of the set. Maryland closed the set with 15 of the 25 points and ended with a 25-20 advantage.

Changing the lead three times in the fourth and final set of the match, Montse Castro recorded the only solo block of the match, but Maryland ran off three consecutive tallies and eight of the final 12 points to claim the match 25-22.

Ejesieme was named to the UTSA Classic All-Tournament team Sunday, Sept. 8. She recorded a .354 hitting percentage and completed 21 of her 48 attempts with just four miscues and claimed five digs and four blocks over the weekend.

UTSA volleyball will be back in action next weekend as they compete in the Tulsa Invitational. The ‘Runners will face Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Tulsa and Houston Baptist Sept. 13-14.

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