By Bryan Ramos | The Rider
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley made quick work of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, sweeping the ‘Roos in three straight sets (28-26, 25-20, 25-12) today at the UTRGV Fieldhouse.
After taking out rival Texas A&M University Corpus Christi in five sets on Tuesday and sweeping WAC opponent Chicago State University on Thursday, UTRGV was riding hot in its three-game home stand with back-to-back wins heading into its last home match.
The first set got off to a dramatic start as the Vaqueros and the Roos went back and forth.
UTRGV sophomore outside hitter Ragni Steen Knudsen and UMKC’s Emma Hagedorn traded kill for kill. The opening set featured 21 ties, the last coming at 26 apiece. UTRGV would score the final two points off UMKC errors to take the first game 28-26.
UTRGV junior setter Tina Sekulic racked up 17 assists to go with 10 digs in the match. Sekulic said they were prepared for an intense situation, just like UTRGV encountered in the first set.
“Actually, we had one very interesting practice yesterday. It was pretty similar situation to today. We were running until 40,” Sekulic said. “We kind of expected this would be a tough game, so we prepared and cleared our minds and knew what to expect.”
The Vaqueros stepped up their game in the second set, distancing themselves from UMKC as junior right side hitter Bojana Mitrovic took over. With the score at 24-20, Mitrovic cracked a smile before the UTRGV serve. She followed that up with a vicious kill for the game-winning point. The team captain totaled 12 kills, 12 digs and two serving aces, her seventh double-double of the season.
“I think with all the little inside jokes we have together as girls and with the coaches, all that positive energy has helped us be better and is helping us win games,” Mitrovic said. “The big thing is as long as we have fun on the court and believe in the person next to you, this team will have no problems winning games.”
In the third set, Head Coach Todd Lowery and his squad showed why they currently sit at second place in the Western Athletic Conference. Senior right side hitter Alisha Watson was big for her team in the game-ending set with nine kills, three serving aces and one block.
Knudsen finished the match with 15 kills and four digs while Hagedorn totaled 12 kills for UMKC.
The UTRGV home win makes the team 6-0 in home games this season with three home games remaining. UTRGV improves to 15-7 on the season and 5-2 in WAC play and continues to build on its best start in NCAA Division I program history.
“The girls obviously love to play here,” Lowery said. “We’ve had great crowds and I think that’s helped get us through a couple tight matches. Days like today, the crowd was good and the girls came out and handled what they’re supposed to in front of that home crowd. Right now, they’re comfortable here.”
UTRGV is back in action at 7 p.m. Tuesday when it travels to take on Seattle University. The next home game for UTRGV will be Oct. 27 as it hosts California State University, Bakersfield.