By Bryan Ramos | The Rider
The UTRGV Volleyball Team opened up shop as it began Western Athletic Conference play this week, shutting down two WAC opponents in its first home stand of the season.
The Vaqueros topped the Seattle University Redhawks 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-21, 25-16) Saturday at the UTRGV Fieldhouse in Edinburg to improve to 11-5 on the season, the team’s best start in the NCAA Division I era and best program start since the 1973 team began 14-2.
Having never beaten the Redhawks in program history and losing their two matchups last year by scores of 1-3 and 0-3, the Vaqueros were out to prove they’ve stepped up their game in 2016 and they did just that.
Junior right side hitter Bojana Mitrovic, who set a career high 24 kills Saturday against the Redhawks, said the team was ready for Seattle U.
“We were more than ready,” Mitrovic said. “We were just waiting for the day to play them again. Last year, they beat us pretty bad; this year, we beat them pretty bad, so we are excited to go on their court and show them what we have again.”
The Vaqueros got off to an impressive start and after being tied at 4 points apiece, they went on a big run sparked by Mitrovic and senior outside hitter Alisha Watson to win the first set 25-19.
The Redhawks answered in the second set, using big plays from senior outside hitter Matea Mamic on their way to a 25-21 victory to even the match at 1-1. Mamic tallied 13 kills and 11 digs in the match.
The Vaqueros came out with urgency in the third set, knowing the winner would gain momentum and the chance to finish the game in a fourth. UTRGV Head Coach Todd Lowery said he wanted his squad to play good defense coming out of the 10-minute intermission following the second set.
“I thought we let up on serve and on defense in set two,” Lowery said. “We just didn’t have that mentality that, ‘Nothing’s going to fall to the floor against us.’ I was proud of them to come out after that break. We wanted to play that crazy intense defense and clean up our hands on the block and I think we did that.”
The UTRGV women showed why they’re off to the best start since 1973, winning the third set 25-21. They received big plays at the net from freshman middle blocker Barbara Silva and sophomore outside hitter Ragni Steen Knudsen all game long.
They shut the door on the Redhawks 25-16 with an impressive defensive performance in the deciding fourth set from senior libero Fatoumata Dacosta, who finished the game with 27 digs.
Knudsen recorded her 12th double-double of the season, posting 12 kills and a career-high four aces. Mitrovic finished the night with seven digs and four blocks to accompany her 24 kills, while Watson provided 12 kills, four digs and three blocks.
This performance comes off the Vaqueros’ WAC opening 3-1 win over the Utah Valley University Wolverines Thursday, which puts UTRGV at 2-0, tied with New Mexico State University atop the conference standings.
“To start 2-0 in the WAC, we’ll take it. It was a good home stand for us and we haven’t been at home. I think the girls had a lot of fun; the crowd was great all three nights we were here this week,” Lowery said. “Now, we have to go get it done on the road, that’s the key to the WAC conference, who can win on the road.”
The team has now won its last four outings and will take on WAC opponent, the Grand Canyon University Antelopes, at 8 p.m. Thursday in Phoenix, Ariz in hopes of building on its historic start to the season.