• May 18, 2022
 HP Sports In-Depth: UTEP Volleyball Hits the Road For Two Conference Matches

Photo by Andres Acosta, Chief Photographer El Paso Herald Post

HP Sports In-Depth: UTEP Volleyball Hits the Road For Two Conference Matches

The UTEP volleyball team (3-12, 0-3, CUSA) will be traveling east to battle UAB (9-8, 1-2 C-USA) and Marshall (8-10, 1-3 C-USA) on Friday and Sunday.

The Miners will first travel to Birmingham, Al., on Friday (6 p.m. MT) for their contest with UAB. Sunday will be another road competition for UTEP when they take on Marshall in Huntington W.V., (11 a.m. MT).

UAB Live Stats   |   UAB Live Stream   |  Marshall Live Stats   |   Marshall Live Stream

UAB is coming off its first home game win against Marshall to improve its record 1-2 in conference and 9-8 overall. Senior setter Shelby Holderfield had a career performance against Marshall, totaling 37 assists. The Blazers’ two conference losses come from the fourth (FIU) and fifth (Florida Atlantic) teams in C-USA.

Their middle blocker Victoria Young was named C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 10. That weekend she scored 41.5 points, averaged 1.46 blocks per set and 3.19 points per set. She also tied her career high in blocks and totaled 19 for the weekend.

UAB and UTEP will be taking the court against each other for the 20th time since 2003. The Miners captured the first victory of the series during the 2003 campaign with a five-set thriller over the Blazers.

Since that first meeting, UAB has held the edge in the series with 13 victories. They also took the win in the last meeting, during conference play in 2017. The previous meeting at UAB, resulted in a Miner victory in five sets.

Macey Austin notched 18 kills as a freshman, and Sarah Villa locked in her spot in UTEP history with a 31-dig performance, becoming the 14th Miner to reach this milestone.
First Meeting: 09/06/2003 UTEP – 3 UAB – 2
Last Meeting: 10/24/2017 UTEP – 1 UAB – 3

The Thundering Herd registered their first conference win on the road against LA Tech improving to 1-3 in conference play and 8-10 overall. Marshall holds some conference highs with the highest team attacks per set in conference (37.42). Ciara DeBell has the highest attacks per set (12.18), kills per set (4.38) and points per set (4.96) in the league.

Amber Weber and Gabrielle Coulter have both earned C-USA Players of the Week Honors this season. Weber earned Defensive Player of the Week and Coulter Freshman of the Week on Sept. 17th.

UTEP has secured seven victories over the Thundering Herd since 1997. The Miners have two victories bookending this series. The first meeting and last were both five-set wins over Marshall. Kylie Baumgartner tallied six total blocks with nine kills and a .381 hitting percentage in the 2017 victory.
First Meeting: 09/05/1997 UTEP – 3 Marshall – 2
Last Meeting: 11/08/2017 UTEP – 3 Marshall – 2

Freshman setter Kristen Fritsche has been the model of consistency for the Miners this year. She has amassed a team-leading 517 assists and 162 digs (second on squad).

Fritsche has earned seven double-doubles this season and has the second-most assists per set (9.07) by a freshman in Conference USA. She had a career match against San Diego State (9/15), when she recorded 54 assists and 11 digs and led the Miners to a 3-2, victory. The setter was an all-tournament selection for the Omaha Challenge and SDSU/USD Challenge.

Premier player Macey Austin has already left her mark on the 2018 season. Her 23-kill performance against UIW (Aug. 24) ranks fourth for kills during a single match in Conference USA (four sets). Austin has gotten off on the right foot, posting 13 double-digit kill performances. The outside hitter also ranks sixth in C-USA in kills (201).

Austin has stepped up her production on defense this season. She recorded 50 digs her sophomore season and 42 digs her freshman year. Austin has already surpassed those numbers with 95 on the year. Her skills in all facets of the game helped earn her a spot on the 2018 Borderland Invitational All-Tournament Team. She locked in 43 kills, 4.30 kills per set and 18 digs for the invitational.

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.

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.

Mallory Yost leads the Miner defensive effort at the net in and total blocks (34) and is second on the team in blocks per set (0.89).

Yost is not the only Miner protecting the net, Martine Kragholm pitches in a team-high tying six solo blocks (Yost-six) and ranks second on team with 28 total blocks. Kristen Fritsche (24), Kylie Baumgartner (23), Cheyenne Jones (22), Serena Patterson (18) and Macey Austin (13) all contribute double-digit blocks to the Miners’ 98 total blocks as a team.

Kylie Baumgartner is looking to place her name in the UTEP record books by the end of her final season. Baumgartner ranks third all-time in total block assists (295). She needs two 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 five total blocks to rate fifth 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. The middle blocker tallied a season-high eight total blocks against UTSA (9/30).

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.

UTEP will return home after a conference road trip to Birmingham, Ala., and Huntington, W.V., on October 12th to take on Florida Atlantic.

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.

Sophomore transfer Briana Bustillos has led the way for the Miner defense this season. She has tallied the most digs (207) on the team and rates eighth in conference, which has helped solidify her spot as the premier libero on the squad.

Her career high in digs (29) came against UTSA (9/30). Bustillos has 11 double-digit dig performances on the year.

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, Ariz. and Kristen Fritsche from Torrance, Calif.

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.

Staff Report

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