Volleyball splits UAB series, ends season


Ethan Gullett

Bianca Ejesieme readies to hit a cross court shot during a game earlier this season. Ejesieme finished third on the team this season with 160 kills.

Julia Maenius, Magazine Editor

The UTSA volleyball team (7-11, 5-7 Conference USA) split a decision against the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers to conclude their season. The Roadrunners dropped the first match 0-3, but they were able to rally and claim the second match in a five-set tiebreaker. 

In the first match, the Blazers swept UTSA in three sets. Trading points back and forth, the Blazers did not gain a substantial lead until later in the first set. After forcing back-to-back hitting errors coupled with a five-point scoring run, UAB was ahead 12-7. Leading the offense with seven kills was Bianca Ejesieme. Kirby Smith and Hunter Coppola followed behind with six each. Maintaining the momentum, the ‘Runners were unable to take control of the court, dropping the first set with a service error, 17-25. 

Following suit, to begin the second set, the Blazers took advantage of five UTSA errors, building a lead of 10-6. Mia Ybarra took control of the defense, chalking in 14 digs. Commanding their side of the net, the ‘Runners tied the set nine times but were unable to execute a finish. Back-to-back hitting errors closed the set 20-25. 

Creating a more dynamic atmosphere in the third set, UTSA did not allow the Blazers to gain a significant lead throughout the final set of the match. Courtney Walters fueled the offense with 18 assists. Mia Perales contributed 10 assists and 13 digs. Finishing the game with a kill, UAB swept the match, 25-22. 

UTSA took the Blazers into a five-set tiebreaker to split the series. In the first set, the ‘Runners took an early 4-1 lead off the back of two UAB hitting errors. Tied at 10-10, UTSA regained the lead and did not let up. Maintaining at least a one-point UTSA lead, three Blazer errors concluded the first set 25-19. 

Continuing the momentum from the first set, the ‘Runners began the second set with a six-point run. UAB regained the lead in a four-point run at 12-11. Trading the lead back and forth, the Blazers took control of the set at 22-18 until UTSA went on a six-point scoring run to take the lead at 24-22. Tied at the 25-point mark, the ‘Runners claimed the two tiebreaking points off of UAB errors to end the set 27-25.

Trading lead changes in the third set, the Blazers took a 7-4 lead. Hannah Lopez led the offensive front this match with 13 kills and 15 digs. Coppola and Ejesieme followed with 10 kills each. Ybarra chipped in 14 digs, and Smith contributed 10 for the defense. Maintaining the lead from there, UAB created a substantial lead to close a quick set at 25-14. 

Taking control of the fourth set, UAB claimed a 10-7 lead off of five kills from the Blazer front row. Perales recorded 14 digs, and Walters added heat to the front row with 40 assists. Reaching a 20-12 lead, UAB capitalized on five ‘Runner errors. Back-to-back kills by UAB concluded the set 25-14 to force a fifth set tiebreaker.

Taking the reins early in the fifth set, UAB took a 6-4 lead after five kills from the front row. Forcing two attack errors, UTSA tied the set 7-7. Utilizing the scoring momentum, the ‘Runners landed five consecutive kills to push the lead 12-9. Forcing a UAB attack error and recording two additional kills, UTSA won the tie breaker 15-13 to conclude the match.

The ‘Runners ended their season in Birmingham, failing to qualify for the C-USA Championships, finishing one game behind North Texas in the western division for the final tournament slot.