The UTEP volleyball team will co-host the Borderland Invitational with NM State from Friday through Sunday.
The Miners will travel to Las Cruces for the first match of the weekend against Arizona Friday evening (4 p.m. MT). The following day UTEP will head back home for its first home match of the season versus Montana Saturday afternoon (11 a.m. MT).
The Orange and Blue will finish off the Borderland Invitational Sunday (1 p.m. MT) against FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10 rival NM State under the lights of Memorial Gym.
Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids. For more information about the team day program call the UTEP marketing department at (915) 747-6065.
The last time UTEP hit the court was when it participated in the Omaha Challenge in Omaha, Neb., for a three-match slate. The Miners opened up with a win over UIC (3-2). The match was highlighted by performances from junior outside hitter Macey Austin and freshman Kristen Fritsche.
Austin notched 23 kills and a career-high 14 digs. Fritsche continued her impressive collegiate career, recording career highs in assists (46) and digs (27). Omaha native Mallory Yost dominated at the net with 10 total blocks that helped boost UTEP to victory. The Miners went on to drop two tightly-contested matches to finish out the weekend in Omaha, Neb.
Arizona Scouting Report
The Arizona Wildcats are coming off of a six-match winning streak with an overall 6-0 record this season. Arizona swept the Cactus Classic against Lipscomb, San Diego State and Pacific. The Wildcats have only lost three sets so far. Kendra Dahlke leads the team and Pac-12 in kills (121), Devyn Cross has a team-best 21 blocks. Julia Patterson heads the team in assists (238) with 11 assists per set.
Arizona Series Info
The Miners and Wildcats have squared off eight times since 1975. UTEP swept Arizona in the first match between the two during the 1975 season. The last meeting between the teams occurred at the University of Arizona Invitational in the 2009 season. UTEP holds a 3-5 all-time record versus the Wildcats.
First Meeting: 10/17/1975 UTEP – 2 Arizona – 0
Last Meeting: 09/20/2009 UTEP – 0 Arizona – 3
Montana Scouting Report
After a winless start the Grizzlies edged out a 3-2 victory over Gonzaga. Mykaela Hammer leads the team in kills (58) and blocks (18). Ashley Watkins is the premier setter with 231 assists and 10 assists per set.
Montana Series Info
Montana has bested the Miners in all three matches. Their first match came in the 1983 season as part of the UNM Invitational. Last season, UTEP and Montana hit the court in the opening match of the year for both programs.
First Meeting: 09/17/1983 UTEP – 0 Montana – 3
Last Meeting: 08/25/2017 UTEP – 1 Montana – 3
NM State Scouting Report
NM State is looking to continue its two-match win streak at the Borderland Invitational. The Aggies are coming off of a 3-0 sweep over in-state rival New Mexico. Ashley Anselmo holds a team-best 22 blocks. Savannah Davidson leads the team in kills (72).
NM State Series Info
The I-10 rivalry is the most storied series in UTEP volleyball history. The teams have competed 85 times since 1974, with the Orange and Blue being victorious on 22 occasions. The first match between the Miners and Aggies resulted in victory for UTEP at the Sul Ross State Invitational. NM State has been a part of UTEP’s schedule every year since the beginning of the program’s history.
First Meeting: 10/04/1974 UTEP – 2 NM State – 1
Last Meeting: 09/19/2017 UTEP – 0 NM State – 3
Setting it Up
Freshman setter Kristen Fritsche has been the model of consistency for the Miners this season. She has amassed a team-leading 215 assists and 83 digs. Fritsche has earned five double-doubles this season, and has the second-most assists (215) by a true freshman in Conference USA. She had a career match against UIC (8/31), when she recorded 46 assists and 27 digs.
Sophomore transfer Briana Bustillos has led the way for the Miner defense this season She has tallied the second-most digs (81) on the team, which has helped her solidify her spot as the premier libero on the squad.
2018 Schedule Breakdown
The 2018 UTEP volleyball schedule features nine home matches, including seven in the Sun City against Conference USA opponents. The Miners will also host the 2017 Conference USA postseason champion WKU.
Before conference play begins, the team will be traveling to places from the bayou of New Orleans, La., to the beaches of San Diego, Calif. UTEP was on the road for three weeks before returning home to open versus Montana (Sept. 8) in the Borderland Invitational.
The Miners will be West Coast bound the following week when they head to San Diego, Calif., to participate in the SDSU/USD Challenge, playing against Oregon State and San Diego State. Following the match versus the Aztecs there will be a quick trip to Riverside, Calif., to play California Baptist and round out pre-conference play.
The Miner C-USA schedule will prove to be a battle every night. Six teams are coming off winning records, and WKU represented the conference in the NCAA Volleyball Championship tournament in 2017.
UTEP head coach Holly Watts’s hard work on the court and in the classroom culture that she has instilled in her team yielded 12 Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll recipients. These students maintained a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better last season.
Among these honor roll students Macey Austin and Cheyenne Jones were also honored with securing Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals for maintaining a GPA of 3.75 or better. Due to the team’s stellar academic performance in the classroom they were honored as a recipient of the AVCA team academic award.
The Miners add eight new faces to the UTEP family this season. These new Miners come from a variety of different parts of the world from junior transfer Erika Sianez (El Paso native) to Martine Kragholm (Kristiansand, Norway). Freshmen Kenidy Howard, Alex Torres and Serena Patterson are all from the Lone Star State.
El Paso native Briana Bustillos brings in college playing experience as a junior transfer from the New Mexico Military Institute. She helped the Broncos to a third place finish in the 2017 NJCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. Two new setters round out the roster for the Miners. They are Hayley Meshay from Phoenix, Az. and Kristen Fritsche from Torrance, Ca.
Home Sweet Home
UTEP recorded all six of its victories in Memorial Gym during the 2017 season. The home crowd atmosphere boosted the Miner team to some of their best performances of the campaign, including an upset win over Rice (9/22) in a five-set thriller where All-Conference USA performer Macey Austin had a career-high 27 kills.
Setting The Bar
Premier player Macey Austin has already left her mark on the 2018 season. Her 23-kill performance against UIW (Aug. 24) ranks third for kills during a single match in Conference USA. Austin has gotten off on the right foot posting two double-digit kill performances. She also ranks sixth in C-USA in kills (43).
Austin On Top
Junior outside hitter Macey Austin found a way to improve in almost every single statistical category during her sophomore campaign. She accumulated career highs in kills (359), total attempts (876), kills per set (3.65) and points (379.0). Austin’s on the court success garnered her an All-Conference USA second-team selection.
She also finished ranked ninth in conference for kills last season. The league announced near the beginning of the 2018 campaign that Austin was named to the 2018 C-USA Women’s Volleyball Preseason Team.
Serving the Community
Macey Austin’s excellence is not limited only to the court. For the second straight year Austin received the Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal for maintaining a GPA of above a 3.75.
Austin has proven to be an incredible example of an all-around student-athlete, earning the C-USA Spirit of Service Award where she totaled 21.75 hours of community service. She contributed time with the Housing Authority of the City of El Paso, UTEP Volleyball Camp and the Game Change Volleyball Camps.
Baumgartner Making Her Mark
Kylie Baumgartner is looking to place her name in the UTEP record books by the end of her final season. Baumgartner ranks seventh all-time in total block assists (282). She needs seven block assists to surpass former teammate Lindsey Larson for sixth all-time.
Baumgartner is also poised to pass some major milestones in career total blocks. She only needs two total blocks to rate seventh all-time in program history. She is on pace to become only the second player in Miner history to have 300+ block assists and 400+ total blocks in a career.
Senior Ashley Grzebeniak and junior Niki Cebak represent the great nation of Canada. They combined for 458 digs during the 2017 season and played in 188 sets. They are now joined by another international player, Martine Kragholm of Kristiansand, Norway.
Kragholm will be called upon to contribute quickly, and is a four-time Norwegian Youth National Championship gold-medalist with Kristiansand Sand Volleyball Klubb. The 5,169 miles is a long way from home for the talented middle blocker, but Grzebeniak and Cebak will surely show her the ropes to help acclimate her to life in the Sun City.