COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: Lucio setting UTPB up for success

UTPB setter Analise Lucio has been a mainstay in the lineup for four seasons and the senior had amassed more than 2,000 career assists guiding the Falcons heading into Saturday’s Lone Star Conference opener against Western New Mexico.

After a brief ceremony before the match, she went out and added 28 more to her growing total to lead UTPB to a 25-18, 25-20, 26-24 sweep of the Mustangs at the Falcon Dome.

After the match, Lucio deflected the accolades as easily as directing the offense.

“I have to congratulate my teammates; I couldn’t do it without them, literally,” she said.

Aquincia Strambler led the Falcons with 12 kills, with Taurie Magee adding six blocks and Daylee Doggett chipping in 14 digs to the victory.

Lucio contributed from the service line, as well, setting in motion the final three points of the match as the visiting Mustangs led, 24-22 before a Strambler kill gave UTPB a chance.

Chandra Reed’s kill leveled the match for the Falcons (6-3 overall, 1-0 in conference) and then Lucio connected with Strambler for a crosscourt blast from the left side to put UTPB at match point.

The match was over moments later after a hitting error by Western New Mexico.

“I feel like we were getting a little too comfortable,” Lucio said about the third-set struggles after easily winning the first two.

“I think we decided to do our own thing; I took a little more time on my serve and I like to keep my composure and I hope my team follows my lead.”

Maggie Roe led the Mustangs (1-8, 0-1) with 10 kills, with Hailey Hertzog handing out 19 assists.

In the third set, Western New Mexico took earned an 8-4 lead in the early going before UTPB’s Erika Lozano went to the back line and moved the Falcons in front (11-9) with six straight points.

UTPB seemed to have gained control of the match at that point, moving out to a 19-15 lead before the Mustangs scored four straight to tie the set.

That led to back-and-forth points before the Mustangs went up 23-21 and then 24-22 to set up Lucio to serve the match out.

“I don’t think we played our best in the third set, but they stepped up their game and I’m just proud of our team for finishing,” UTPB coach Tim Loesch said. “We kept battling and figured some stuff out.

“I think some of the girls were nervous playing in front of their home crowd for the first time in a while. But it was great having the crowd for the first time in two years, really, along with the band.”

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Falcons did not face Western New Mexico in the 2020-21 season.

UTPB in fact, played just three schools (Angelo State, Lubbock Christian and West Texas A&M) in their pod during last season, but used a pair of victories on the road at Lubbock Christian to make the Lone Star Conference tournament.

After defeating St. Edward’s, UTPB lost in five sets to host Arkansas-Fort Smith, giving the program some momentum heading into the season.

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