Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Volleyball loses in season finale to Eastern Carolina

Volleyball looks onward to 2024 possibilities
Riley Carroll

For a final time this season, UTSA (15-15, 8-11 AAC) volleyball hosted East Carolina (20-10, 11-8) at the Convocation Center in an anxiety-inducing, fast-paced match. 

The Roadrunners lost to the Pirates in a four-set match 25-17, 24-26, 25-19, 25-16 to close out the season at .500.

Though the Pirates took the first set, UTSA and Eastern Carolina found themselves tied at 20-20 in the second set. Defensive specialist Peyton Turner went for the final kill and a block error made by Eastern Carolina’s setter, Julianna Askew, paved the way for UTSA to win the set 26-24. 

The Pirates front court attacks proved difficult but senior libero Aliah Giroux proved to be a valuable asset. From serving to running down the court afterward to pick up the ball, Giroux racked up a total of 18 digs and six assists.

“Personally, I do feel like I could have played better but I do think, in all, we played the best that we could,” Giroux said. “I think we executed the game pretty well.”

Eastern Carolina had taken a six-point lead over the ‘Runners at the top of the third set and maintained a lead to win 25-19. Once again in the fourth set, UTSA struggled to deflect blocks and tips as they fell 25-16 to the Pirates. 

Despite the disappointing loss, the women could have optimistic views on their season.

“We have a great culture on the team,” sophomore outside hitter Mia Soerensen said. “We’ve really worked on building a strong culture and really being supportive of each other this season. So I think going forward that’s gonna be really beneficial.”

“I feel like we’ve definitely tried our hardest,” senior middle blocker Alicia Coppedge said. “It didn’t go the way we wanted, but it’s totally fine because we were trying to play for our seniors.”

Senior outside hitter Cansu Günaydin will be graduating and leaving UTSA, though senior middle blockers Makayla Smith and Coppedge along with Giroux are set to return.

The 2024 season will bring a positive change to the conference.

In 2024, the AAC will debut a conference tournament, giving more teams a chance to fight for the title. 

“For some reason in the American [Athletic Conference], volleyball is the only sport that does not have a conference tournament,” junior setter Mekaila Aupui said. “Students from each volleyball team [in the AAC] voted so we will have one next year.”

Aupui said that she hopes to not only get to the conference tournament next year but rack up more wins so they can compete in the NCAA tournament as well.

After a poor 2022 season, the 2023 campaign was a step in the right direction. 

The volleyball team only won eight games last season, three of those being Conference USA matches. This season, the team won 15 of its matches and eight of those were AAC wins. 

Several players reached new personal records with the school. Freshman middle hitter Miranda Putnicki made 12 blocks in a single game, more than any other UTSA volleyball player. Giroux reached the 1,000 digs milestone in October and Ellie Turner notched 1,500 digs leading up to the last match. Soerensen earned 26 kills in a match against Tulane. 

“I’m proud of the girls for continuing to show up. It was definitely a team effort,” UTSA head coach Carol Price-Torok said. “A lot of different people stepped up at different times and had a few injuries too, late in the season.”

Makenna Wiepert stepped up as the freshman setter while Aupiu was out with an injury, to earn a total of 42 assists during their match against Tarleton State. 

“The biggest two are Mekaila Aupiu, our setter, she came in and really made a difference in the second half of the season and Mia Soerensen. You can count on her day in and day out,” Price-Torok said.

Aside from one senior and one unnamed middle, the team will remain the same next season. UTSA volleyball will break for the rest of the semester but training will resume in the spring. Price-Torok said that the team will have a tournament in Europe to look forward to in the 2024 season as well. 

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About the Contributors
Haley Aguayo, Assistant Sports Editor
Haley (she/her) is a senior at UTSA who is majoring in digital communications and minoring in marketing and will be graduating in December 2024. She joined The Paisano in the spring of 2023 and primarily writes for the sports section. Haley has since become the assistant sports editor at The Paisano. After she graduates, she hopes to work in sports journalism or do in-house marketing for a professional sports team.
Riley Carroll, Arts & Life Editor
Riley Carroll (She/They) is a class of 2024 digital communication major with a minor in film and media studies. Originally from Houston, Texas, Riley is pursuing photojournalism and concert photography. Riley joined The Paisano during the spring 2022 semester after missing being an editor for her high school yearbook, The Talon. At 18 years old, Riley's photography won first place in a state-wide ILPC competition and at 19, she contributed her first article to the San Antonio Express-News. At The Paisano, Riley enjoys conducting artist interviews and covering live shows. Aside from The Paisano, she has published work with the San Antonio Express-News, The Fort Bend Herald Newspaper, The Talon Yearbook and The Heart Sounds magazine.

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