Monday , December 11 2017
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HP Sports In Depth: Miner Volleyball Heads to Sunshine State

The UTEP Volleyball team will do a tour of Florida this weekend when they travel to the Sunshine State take on FIU and Florida Atlantic in the final Conference USA road trip of the season.

The Miners (5-19, 2-9 C-USA) will take on the Panthers (3-14, 2-8 C-USA) on Friday at 5 p.m. MT in Miami and close out with a 10 a.m. MT Sunday match up against the Owls (15-7, 6-4 C-USA) in Boca Raton.

Though they split last weekend’s home matches, the highlight was the Miners blanking Middle Tennessee for their second conference win and sweep of the season.  The Miners did not allow the Blue Raiders to reach 20 points in any set, taking the match 25-19, 25-16 and 25-14 on Senior Day for UTEP upperclassmen Amanda King and Dania Orozco.

On Friday, they kept pace, but fell to LA Tech 3-1. The Miners stopped a potential sweep by the Lady Techsters by getting a 25-23 set three win, but LA Tech took the match 25-22, 25-29, 23-25, 25-22 to down the Orange and Blue.

The UTEP offense was manned by Macey Austin, Mallory Yost and Kylie Baumgartner with 25, 20, and 13 kills respectively,  on the weekend while defensive efforts were run by Ashley Grzebeniak with 20 digs, as well as Yost and Baumgartner with a combined 17 blocks.

The Miners will be on the hunt for their third and fourth conference wins and competing to return to the Conference USA Tournament. The Panthers are 10th in league standings while the Owls are fifth. Last season, the Miners beat both Florida schools to help them make the tournament.

Both of UTEP’s weekend matches in Florida will be live streamed through CUSA.tv, which requires a paid subscription.

LIVE STATS VS FIU  |  LIVE STREAM VS FIU    |     LIVE STREAM VS FLORIDA ATLANTIC

FIU Scouting Report

Series: Friday’s match will mark the fifth meeting between FIU and UTEP, with the Miners holding the 3-1 advantage in the all-time series. They first met in 2013 in Memorial Gym, with the Miners blanking the Panthers 3-0. They last met in 2016, where UTEP again took the match in Memorial Gym 3-2. The Panthers are 3-14 overall and 2-8 in league play.

PANTHER Notables

FIU is coming off a three set win against Bethune-Cookman (25-13, 25-23, 25-19) to improve their record to 9-19 overall, 3-11 in Conference USA. Senior Taija Thomas led the Panthers offense with a career-high 18 kills (.667) with no errors and chipped in with two blocks. Behind Thomas was sophomore Sidney Henderson clinching a career-high in kills with 13.

FIU hit a season-best .353 in the match against BCU. The Panthers also recorded a 73 percent side-out mark during the showing. On the defensive side, junior Margherita Bianchin and sophomore libero Helene Thelle led the team with 13 and 11 digs, respectively.

The Panthers are ranked fourth in C-USA for digs with 920 (14.84), while sophomore Thelle is ranked fifth in the league with 228 (3.68).

FLORIDA ATLANTIC SCOUTING REPORT

Series: Sunday’s match will be the fifth meeting between the Owls and Miners. Both will be playing for the all-time series lead, which is currently tied 2-2. They first met in 2013 in El Paso, when the Miners swept the Owls.

They last met in 2016, where UTEP took the 3-2 win in Memorial Gym. The Owls are 15-7 overall and 6-4 in C-USA play.

OWL NOTABLES

FAU clinched its fifth-consecutive win after defeating Marshall in three-straight sets (25-15, 25-20, 25-23) to improve to a 6-4 record in Conference USA and a 15-7 overall record. Freshman Sydney Nemtuda led the Owls offensively with 18 kills and adding three blocks. Alongside Nemtuda was junior Abbi Reid, who registered 10 kills and two blocks to secure the win.

Meanwhile on the defensive side, junior libero Alex Cardona tallied 14 digs to lead the team. Cardona is ranked third in C-USA for digs with 317 (4.17). Setter Ivone Martinez dished out 43 assists and 11 digs to notch her eight double-double of the season.

Martinez is ranked as the C-USA leader in assists with 866 (12.74) to help facilitate the Owls’ attack and lead them to a pair of sweeps against FIU and Marshall. Sophomore outside hitter Sigourney Kame is also ranked amongst the top players in the league (third) with 294 kills (3.92) this season. FAU not only leads C-USA in kills with 1,157 (15.03), but also rates first in assists with a 14.42 percentage.

SWEEP SWEEP 

After not allowing Middle Tennessee to score 20 points in any frame, the Miners earned their second sweep of the season, making quick work of the Blue Raiders 25-19, 25-16, 25-14 in Memorial Gym. The team’s last sweep came on Sept. 9 against Delaware State during the Borderland Invitational. UTEP’s hard-hitting offense coupled with an effective defensive effort helped them to the win.

Mallory Yost and Macey Austin paced the UTEP offensive with nine kills each while Cheyenne Jones notched seven kills at a .500 clip.

Senior Amanda King dished out 32 assists to set up the offense. Defensively, Ashley Grzebeniak led the team with nine digs, while Briana Arellano added eight of her own. Kylie Baumgartner was a force at the net, notching the team’s lone solo block while also teaming up for four block assists to stop the Blue Raider offense and keep them at a .080 hitting percentage.

FRIDAY NIGHT FALTER

A third set comeback was highlighted by a combined 10 kills from Macey Austin, Briana Arellano and Kylie Baumgartner for a 25-23 set victory, but the Miners fell to LA Tech in four sets on Friday at Memorial Gym. The Lady Techsters took sets one and two (25-22, 25-19) before the Miners got the third set victory from six kills from Austin and three apiece from Arellano and Baumgartner. LA Tech would go on to take set four (25-22) and the match 3-1.

Austin earned her 10th double-digit kill match in a row after hammering 16 kills to lead the team, while freshman Mallory Yost was close behind her with 11 kills of her own. Yost also had a team-high five blocks, including a solo block, and a career-high four digs.

Arellano and Baumgartner each had eight kills, while Arellano also recorded eight digs and two service aces and Baumgartner tallied four block assists. Amanda King notched 38 assists and Ashley

Grzebeniak paced the Miner defense with 11 digs. Dania Orozco led the team with three service aces and picked up five digs.

YOST, AUSTIN HEAD DEPARTMENT OF OFFENSE

Rookie Mallory Yost and sophomore Macey Austin paced the UTEP offensive in their team’s rout of Middle Tennessee with nine kills each. Yost was hitting at a blistering .500 clip, while Austin, who was held to single-digit kills for the first time since Sept. 19, was hitting at a .400 percentage.

Cheyenne Jones also put in work for the offense, notching seven kills at a .500 clip. The Miners hit at their second season-best percentage of .338 with 36 kills and only ten errors, while the Blue Raiders hit at a .080 percentage. Austin continues to lead the Miner offense this season, breaking the 300-kill mark after posting 25 kills on the weekend for a season total of 315. Jones is second on the list with 167.

As a team, the Miners have totaled 1,023 kills on the season.

RETURN TO THE SUNSHINE STATE 

UTEP will return to Florida for the first time since 2015, when they dropped both matches against FIU and Florida Atlantic in three sets. When the Florida conference schools came to the Lone Star State last season, the Miners notched five set victories over both teams in Memorial Gym.

YOU GOT SERVED

UTEP broke the century mark for aces recorded with 110 this season. Briana Arellano paces the Miners with 24 service aces, while Niki Cebak is close behind with 22 this season.

UTEP Volleyball Falls to New Mexico in Glory Road Invitational

The UTEP Volleyball team fell to New Mexico 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-22) in the Miner’s first match at the Glory Road Invitational on Friday.

The Miners will return Saturday for a double-header in Memorial Gym, first at 1 p.m. (MT) against the Youngstown State Penguins then a 7:30 p.m. (MT) meeting with the North Dakota Fighting Hawks to close out their home tournament. The Penguins, who played a double-header on Friday, fell to both New Mexico and North Dakota.

Pacing the Miners’ offense was Macey Austin, who notched 10 kills with a .273 clip. Ashley Grzebeniak was an all-around force for her team, knocking down eight kills, recording a block assist and picking up nine digs.

Kylie Baumgartner was big in the middle, earning herself six kills while also leading the team in block assists (3) and recorded the Miners’ lone solo block. Defensively, sophomore libero Niki Cebak picked up 14 digs, Dania Orozco notched five and Briana Arellano added seven of her own. True freshman Sahara Martinez put in work as well, dishing out 21 assists.

“I think Dania passed really well, Grzebeniak played a full rotation for the first time this year, Maddie and Mallory switched really well and every one had to do a little more than last time and so we had a few mistakes but played well overall,” head coach Holly Watts said. ““We are expecting our team to be fresh for tomorrow and use today as a learning experience. We win or we learn more and continue to build as a team.”

In total, the Miners recorded 37 kills, 33 assists, 42 digs, six block assists, and one solo block. The Lobos notched 40 kills, 37 assists, 54 digs, eight block assists and three solo blocks.

The Miners started strong with a competitive New Mexico squad, going head to head and having an answer for each Lobo attack. Grzebeniak knocked down a kill to bring the Miners within one point of the Lobos, but New Mexico’s Mariessa Carrasco answered back with a kill of her own to bring the score to 23-21, and the Lobos never looked back, taking set one 25-22.

A fired-up New Mexico squad handled set two 25-18, but the aggressive Miners did not go down in set three without a fight, climbing from a 10-point deficit to challenge the Lobos 23-21 before ultimately falling 25-22.

“We’re still working on the chemistry of this team and even with two seniors on the team [Orozco and Amanda King] they are junior transfers who are playing their second year here,” Watts said. “We’re young, J\just getting used to the players next to you and having these games will help this team get better. Playing four games in four days is good for their experience, it’s a lot more fun playing against somebody else than practicing against each other.”

H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Volleyball Hosts First of Two Tournaments

The UTEP volleyball team will host its first of two tournaments this Friday, Sept. 1, and Saturday, Sept. 2, when Memorial Gym opens its doors to New Mexico, Youngstown State, and North Dakota for the first-ever Glory Road Invitational.

The round-robin tournament will pit UTEP (0-2) against New Mexico (2-1) on Friday at 7:30 p.m.. and Saturday will feature a double-header for the Miners. First, UTEP will battle Youngstown State (4-0) at 1 p.m., then the home team will meet with North Dakota at 7:30 p.m. to close out the tournament.

All matches will be played at Memorial Gym. Due to equipment damage sustained from Friday’s storm during a soccer match, there will be no live stream of the matches, but live stats will be available.

Admission for the tournament is $5 for adults and $3 for children.

LIVE STATS: http://www.sidearmstats.com/utep/wvball/

GLORY ROAD INVITATIONAL BREAKDOWN
The Inaugural Glory Road Invitational on Sept. 1-2 will feature host UTEP, New Mexico, North Dakota and Youngstown State. There will be six matches played during the two-day event at Memorial Gym. Youngstown State (visitor, light jersey) and New Mexico (home, dark jersey) will open the Invite on Friday at 11 a.m. Youngstown State (visitor, dark jersey) will play its second match on the day against North Dakota (home, light jersey) at 5:30 p.m. UTEP will open its weekend against New Mexico at 7:30 p.m. North Dakota (home, light jersey) and New Mexico (visitor, dark jersey) will commence Saturday’s matches at 11 a.m. UTEP will then host Youngstown State at 1 p.m. and North Dakota at 7:30 p.m. to conclude the weekend. A tournament guide, including practice schedules, can be found at www.utepathletics.com on the women’s volleyball page under the “More+” link.

New Mexico Scouting Report
Series: Friday’s match will mark the 42nd meeting between the old conference foes, with New Mexico holding the all-time record of 33-8. The New Mexico Lobos finished the 2016 season with a 16-16 overall record, 6-12 Mountain West Conference record.

Lobo Notables
New Mexico has a few veteran players returning for the 2017 season, including senior Ashley Kelsey and junior Victoria Spragg. Kelsey, a libero, lead the Lobos in defense with a team-leading 523 digs (4.29 digs/set), the third-most in a single season in program history. The senior was also named to the UNM Invitational and USF Invitational All-Tournament teams. Spragg, a middle blocker, will also lead the charge in defense for the Lobos. Spragg lead the team with a season high of 118 blocks (0.99/set), she was also named to the UT Arlington Invitational All-Tournament Team.

Youngstown State Scouting Report
Series: Saturday’s match will mark the first time UTEP and Youngstown State have meet. The Youngstown State Penguins finished the 2016 season with a 8-22 overall record, 2-14 Horizon League Conference record.

Penguins Notables
Youngstown State looks to return seniors Sam Brown and El Paso native Lauren Blanco for the 2017 season. Brown, outside hitter, registered 278 kills (2.53 kills/set) and career-high 262 digs (2.38 digs/set) season in 2016 for the Penguins offense. Blanco, a libero, was named Team’s Best Defensive Player and was the first libero to earn academic all-conference honors in program history. Varcolla, a middle, finished the season with a team-high of 117 blocks (1.06 blocks/set).

North Dakota Scouting Report
Series: Saturday’s match will mark the second meeting between the Miners and Fighting Hawks, with North Dakota holding the 1-0 advantage. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks finished the 2016 season with a 26-10 overall record, 14-2 Big Sky Conference record.

Fighting Hawks Notables
North Dakota looks to return seniors Faith Dooley and Sydney Griffin for the 2017 season. Dooley, a middle hitter, finished the 2016 season with 476 blocks, 12 shy of the UND all-time record (488). Griffin, a setter, delivered 1,316 in 2016, 19th-most in NCAA Division I. Dooley and Griffin also competed in the 2017 U.S Volleyball Collegiate National Team tryout. Fraase, a libero, was named Academic All-Big Sky and ended the 2016 season with 583 digs, charting one of the best seasons in UND history.

FIVE-SET HEARTBREAKER
The Miners will enter the Glory Road Invitational looking to bounce back from Wednesday’s heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Texas Tech at home that ended in extra points in the fifth set in Memorial Gym. The Miners took set one 25-23, but dropped back-to-back sets 25-20 and 25-18 to the Red Raiders. The Miners had a huge comeback to take set four 25-23 and forced Texas Tech to extra points before ultimately falling 18-16.

ON THE HUNT FOR WIN NO. 1
UTEP will be hunting for their first win of the season during this weekend’s play. The Miners dropped two games at the North Texas Invitational last weekend against very competitive Montana and Tulsa teams. First scheduled to play at the I-10 Cardinals Classic, the devastating Hurricane Harvey forced host Incarnate Word to cancel play on Thursday, leaving the Miners without a tournament. They were extended an invitation to play in the North Texas Invitational in Denton, Texas on Friday, hopping on a plane that same day to face Montana that evening. The Miners took the Grizzlies to four sets, but dropped the match 3-1. Saturday’s match up pitted them against old Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA foe Tulsa. The sets were a shoot out, but Tulsa came out with the 3-0 sweep. Another close match came at the home opener against Texas Tech on Wednesday, with the Red Raiders prevailing 3-2.

KING DOING KING THINGS
Amanda King is putting up big numbers through three matches in 2017. She is recording 7.75 assists per set, which was helped by a 48-assist performance in the five-set thriller against Texas Tech on Wednesday. King is also tied for the squad lead in block assists (10), tied for second for total blocks (10) and places fourth on the team in digs (13-1.08 digs per set). The setter has managed 10 kills as well, which earns her a share of fifth on the squad.

THE DEBUT OF JONES
True freshman Cheyenne Jones has been making her presence known at the collegiate level. The powerful hitter has been a force on the Miners’ outside, hammering down 25 kills (2.08 k/s) at a .135 clip, ranking second on the team behind Macey Austin. She has also recorded two service aces, seven digs and 10 block assists. Jones currently leads the team in points with 32.

EXPERIENCED TEAM RETURNS
Nine of the 13 players on UTEP’s roster are returning players, while the Miners add four freshmen to the mix.

ANALYZING THE DEPTH
Outside Hitters
UTEP has the most depth in the outside position with a total of five outside hitters. Junior Ashley Grzebeniak is the only upperclassman that returned, bringing two years of experience and coming off a 148-kill season. The Miners are also loaded with sophomores Macey Austin, who was named to the 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman, and El Paso native Briana Arellano. In 2016, Austin started in 21 of 30 matches and led the team in kills (280) while Arellano saw action in 29 matches, starting in 14 contests. Sophomore Ali Vidali also returned and brought one year of experience and is continuing to develop as a player after appearing in 49 sets. Freshman Cheyenne Jones also joined the group. The 6-foot-1 Missoula, Montana native brings tremendous size and power and is anticipated to make an immediate impact to the team.

Middle Blockers
At the middle blocker position, the Miners returned juniors Kylie Baumgartner and Maddie Morgan and add freshman Mallory Yost. Baumgartner brings two years of experience and once again led the Miners in blocks with 111 total (18s/93a) in 2016. Morgan also has two years under her belt, knocking down 102 kills and tallying 30 total blocks last season. Yost adds size to the position at 6-foot-1 and should see plenty of playing time as the Miners work to develop her to the collegiate-level pace. She finished her high school career with 816 kills at a .377 hitting efficiency, 182 digs, 151 blocks (56s/95a), 11 assists and nine service aces.

Setters
Senior Amanda King filled the void left with Lindsey Larson’s departure. The senior, who transferred to UTEP last season from Palm Beach State, made 25 starts in 30 matches and dished out 371 assists at a 3.28 average assists per set. As a six-rotation player, King also registered 192 digs, 18 kills, 14 service aces and 32 points. Joining King will be freshman Sahara Martinez. The newcomer from La Verne, Calif., totaled 1,987 assists throughout her high school career and will help King in the rotation.

Defensive Specialists
On defense, UTEP returned sophomore Niki Cebak, who brought one year of experience after taking the court for 29 matches with 10 starting appearances. Cebak registered 150 digs in 2016 and will be joined by senior Dania Orozco. The El Paso native transferred to UTEP last season from New Mexico Military Institute and saw action in 23 matches, accumulating 50 digs. Freshman newcomer Abby Adams joined the group. The trio will work to fill Sarah Villa’s spot, who, as the starting libero in 2016, recorded 553 digs at 4.89 digs per set to lead Conference USA.

HITTING THE BOOKS
UTEP proved they were hitting the books as hard as the volleyballs when they were announced as a recipient of the 2016-17 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award in July. The award honors teams who have matched their dedication to the sport of volleyball with excellence in the classroom. The award, which was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. The AVCA Team Academic Award, celebrating its 25th year, is the single largest award offered by quantity of schools, players and coaches honored. Since the 2000-2001 season, the number of recipients have increased every single year but two, while amassing a 532 team increase over the span of the last decade. Since the award’s inception in 1993, the amount of award winners has increased from 62 to its current number of 822.

CONFERENCE HONORS
Three Miners were recognized by Conference USA for their efforts during the 2016 campaign. Lindsey Larson and Sarah Villa, both seniors last season, were named to the C-USA Second Team while Macey Austin earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team. Larson concluded her collegiate career as UTEP’s all-time leader in assists (2,677), service aces (71), total blocks (317) and block assists (292) while ranking second on the list in assists per set (6.17). Larson was also honored for her outstanding dedication in the classroom after being named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team for the third time. She sported a 3.93 GPA in civil engineering and was a regular member to UTEP’s Dean List and the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medalist list. Larson started in all 82 sets and is the only one in the league to notch a triple-double in 2016. Larson has registered a total of five triple-doubles on the season and 15 total double-doubles, the second-most in C-USA. Villa made her way to the list after denting the school record books for digs (1,369) and digs per set (3.71). Villa also holds the conference record for most digs in a match with 45. After a breakout year, Austin was named to the All-Freshman team and led the Miners in kills (280) and kills per set (2.64). With three years of collegiate eligibility left, Austin already ranks 10th on UTEP’s all-time kills list and fifth for kills per set. Austin will be anticipated to lead the Miners on the front court.

STUDENTS FIRST
Though 11 of 12 players were named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, three secured C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals for maintaining a GPA of 3.75 or greater. Lindsey Larson, Macey Austin and Briana Arellano received the medal, Larson for the third time and Austin and Arellano for the first. Larson was also named to the C-USA All-Academic team. The three were also starters for the Miners.

EL PASO’S VERY OWN
The 2017 roster features two players from El Paso—defensive specialist Dania Orozco and outside hitter Briana Arellano. Orozco is a 2014 Americas High School graduate and joined the team last season after transferring from New Mexico Military Institute, where she played for two years. The senior tallied 50 total digs last season and added a service ace and an assist. Arellano is a 2016 graduate from Canutillo High School and found immediate success as a freshman on the UTEP squad, knocking down 95 kills and picking up 220 digs, making her the leading defensive returner for the Miners.

AUSTIN’S POWER
After a breakout rookie year, sophomore Macey Austin will be anticipated to continue her dominance at the net. Austin led the team in kills (280) and racked up 2.64 kills per set in 106 sets played as a freshman last season. She also registered double-digit kills in 14 matches including a season-best 18 kills twice. For her efforts, Austin was named to the 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. The six-foot Keller, Texas native ranks 10th on UTEP’s all-time list for kills.

RETURN TO THE ‘SHIP
The Miners earned a spot at the Conference USA Championships for the first time in two years last season, a feat they look to repeat in 2017. The team earned the eighth and final spot for the tournament, which paired them with top-seeded and eventual champion WKU, who swept the Miners. A year of experience later, however, the team now knows what it takes to make the tournament and what to expect. The Orange and Blue will return nine letterwinners from last year’s championship-bid team, including seven who saw action at the tournament.

FILLING THE VOID
Three key players, Lindsey Larson, Sarah Villa and Tatum Winter, were lost due to graduation. The Miners will now reload this year to fill the void. Senior Amanda King, who transferred to UTEP last season, will take over Larson’s setter position. King dished out 371 assists in 113 sets and added 18 kills and will look to add more in her leadership role. Niki Cebak and Dania Orozco will be in line to fill the libero spot left from Villa. Cebak played in 96 sets and picked up 150 digs, while Orozco played in 41 sets and tallied 50 digs. Abby Adams, a freshman, will also be in the runnings. Winter, a middle blocker, got help from juniors Kylie Baumgartner and Maddie Morgan. Baumgartner led the team in blocks for the second straight year with 111 (18s/93a) and Morgan added 30 to the mix. The pair will be joined by Mallory Yost, who comes to UTEP after recording 151 blocks during her high school career.

UTEP Volleyball Edged by Texas Tech in Five Set Thriller

The UTEP volleyball team, riding on the momentum from a loud home crowd, fell to Texas Tech 3-2 in a thrilling match that ended in extra points in the fifth set in Memorial Gym on Wednesday.

The Miners took set one 25-23, but dropped back-to-back sets 25-20 and 25-18 to the Red Raiders. The Miners had a huge comeback to take set four 25-23 and forced Texas Tech to extra points before ultimately falling 18-16.

“It was exciting because the fans had a lot of energy here, our team was giving out a lot of energy and we were fighting for every point,” head coach Holly Watts said. “Obviously we wanted the five-set match to go the other direction, a play here and there really makes a difference when it (fifth set) ends up 18-16.

“There were other sets that were two point sets that could have gone either way, one of those was ours and one of those was theirs, so something else could have happened. I’m just really so proud of the way they (UTEP) battled and fought and didn’t let anything get them down.”

The resilient UTEP squad racked up season-best totals of 61 kills, 56 assists, 53 digs and 26 block assists in the match. The Red Raiders’ totals were 72 kills, 63 assists, 66 digs, and 18 block assists and one solo block.

The Miner offense was led by Macey Austin, who hammered down 15 kills at a .265 clip with one block assist, Cheyenne Jones, who notched 13 kills with a .212 hitting percentage and five block assists, and Briana Arellano and Mallory Yost, who both recorded 10 kills. Arellano also tallied six digs, two service aces and two block assists while Yost, hitting at a .304 percentage, led the team in block assists with seven. Six-rotation player Amanda King was an all-around force for her team, dishing out 48 assists and notching six kills. The senior setter also three digs and teamed-up for six block assists.

Defensively, UTEP was paced by libero Niki Cebak with 17 digs while Ashley Grzebeniak added 10 of her own.

A blocking effort helped stop the Red Raiders, as the Miners teamed up with 26 block assists in the game.

“Defensive blocking is something that can really bring energy, it’s something that really kept us in some of the sets and helped us to battle back,” Watts said.

Set one began with Texas Tech blanking the Miners 6-0 before a kill by Jones put the Miners on the board. The Orange and Blue then capitalized on Red Raider errors with kills of their own, combined with four block assists to get within one point of Texas Tech, forcing them to take a timeout.

Another Jones kill right out of the timeout tied the set at 15. The two teams would tie one more time at 17-all, before a Miner push, led by two more Jones kills and a kill apiece by Arellano and Austin as well as a block assist from Maddie Morgan and Arellano, ended with a 25-23 set one victory.

The Red Raiders would get the best of the Miners in sets two and three, but the Miners kept fighting in set four, including climbing from a 11-5 deficient, to tie the game at 14 after consecutive service aces by Arellano and back-to-back block assists by freshman duo Jones and Yost.

With the momentum to their advantage, the Miners then began to work for the lead, allowing the Red Raiders to tie the set only twice more before the held a 21-17 advantage.

Five consecutive Texas Tech kills, however, evened the score at 22, but the Red Raider run was stopped by a service error and an Austin kill picked the Miners up 24-22. Texas Tech would answer back with a kill, but Austin put the period on set four with her third kill of the match, giving the Miners the 25-23 set  victory and forcing a fifth set.

The fifth set had Texas Tech in control at first, with the Red Raiders getting a 7-3 to force a UTEP timeout. Yost then came back on the court and stopped the run with a kill, but Tech’s Katy Keenan mirrored her with one of her own to keep the Miners down 8-4.

A block assist by Jones and Kylie Baumgartner, followed by a Texas Tech attack error, began the shootout for the lead by both teams. The teams would tie five times as they battled for the game victory, and at 15-all, Texas Tech’s Emily Hill, who had 14 kills for her team, would hammer one down to give the Red Raiders 16-15 advantage.

Not giving up, Arellano answered with a kill of her own to again tie the set at 16. It would be the last point for the Miners, as a UTEP service and attack error would end the set 18-16 and the match.

Despite the loss, Watts was pleased with her team’s grit in the five-set drama.

“It motivates us for tomorrow, and then tomorrow, and then tomorrow, so I think every time we can come out and put out our best effort and fight,” she said. “I think we battled for every point. We started in the hole sometimes and that part is a little frustrating so we’ve got to get better at coming from behind. I think we did a great job of battling for points and competing all the way through and not giving up. We were down a bit early and we just fought and fought and fought.”

The Miners will return to action Friday and Saturday in the first of two home tournaments, the Glory Road Invitational. The team will open the tournament with a meeting with New Mexico at 7:30 p.m. (MT) on Friday at Memorial Gym.

UTEP Volleyball Opens at Home Against Texas Tech

The UTEP volleyball team (0-2, 0-0 Conference USA) will play its home opener on Wednesday, Aug. 30, against Texas Tech (1-0, 0-0 Big 12). First serve at the historic Memorial Gym is set for 6 p.m. (MT).

The Miner squad gained a lot of experience at the North Texas Invitational this past weekend against very competitive Montana and Tulsa teams. The Miners went 0-2 in the invitational, but senior setter Amanda King had a stellar performance as a six-rotation player, racking up 45 assists, four kills, 10 digs and four total blocks.

The team also got strong showings from sophomores Macey Austin and Briana Arellano, who both had 13 kills to lead the team. Defensively, Arellano also had 10 digs. True freshman Cheyenne Jones also proved she was a force for the team in her collegiate debut, hammering down 12 kills while also picking up two digs and five total blocks.

In total, the Miners had 61 kills, 54 assists, 51 digs, 15 total blocks and five service aces in two games.

Texas Tech is coming off a 3-1 win over North Texas in their season opener. Sophomore transfer Emily Hill led the Red Raiders on offense with a double-double and a match-high of 17 kills and 11 digs, as well as four block assists and a couple of aces. Behind her was junior Sarah Redding with 14 kills.

Meanwhile, junior libero Reyn Akiu led the defense with a match-high of 21 digs. Junior Katy Keenan and freshman Allison White combined for eight block assists and three solo blocks. The Red Raiders hold a 22-3 record in program history against the Miners.

The UTEP team features only two seniors, King and defensive specialist Dania Orozco, but is loaded with three juniors, four sophomores and four freshman. Miner fans will get their first look at the team in regular season action, which includes 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman selection Austin, senior leader King, and El Pasoans Arellano and Orozco.

Team block leader Kylie Baumgartner will also put in work for the Miners, and freshmen Jones and Mallory Yost, who have already accumulated plenty of playing time, will contest for the first time in Memorial Gym.

The game day marketing promotion will be an “Orange Out” and fans are encouraged to wear orange to get in free.  Live stats will be available HERE.

UTEP (0-2) VS TEXAS TECH (1-0)

Date: Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Time: 6 p.m. (MT)

Admission: Wear orange and admission is free

Miner Notables: Amanda King (setter), Macey Austin (outside hitter), Briana Arellano (outside hitter), Kylie Baumgartner (middle blocker), Cheyenne Jones (outside hitter), Ashley Grzebeniak (outside hitter), Niki Cebak (defensive specialist/libero)

Red Raider Notables: Emily Hill (outside hitter), Sarah Redding (right-side hitter), Reyn Akiu (libero), Katy Keenan (middle blocker), Allison White (middle blocker).

UTEP Volleyball Edged by Tulsa

DENTON, Texas- The UTEP volleyball team were neck-and-neck with Tulsa in set one, but slipped to the Hurricane 3-0 in their final match at the North Texas Invitational in Denton, Texas, on Saturday.

Freshman Cheyenne Jones led the Miners’ offensive efforts with nine kills, while Macey Austin added six of her own. Briana Arellano and Maddie Morgan hammered down three kills a piece to help the team. The Miners were again led by six-rotation player Amanda King in assists, as she dished out 18 and added five digs and three block assists.

Defensively, sophomore libero Niki Cebak recorded six digs and Arellano put in her own effort with four digs. Cebak also added a service ace. The Miners also totaled eight total team blocks, paced by Morgan and King with three each.

The Orange and blue totaled 23 kills, 21 assists, 22 digs and 8 total team blocks, while the Hurricane notched 35 kills, 34 assists, 31 digs and eight total team blocks in the match.

“We served tougher and more consistently today and we went on a few runs,” UTEP head coach Holly Watts said. “Our serve-receive needs to be better, longer. We had some individuals during short periods of time that were really good and give us a lot of hope for this team and this season. We’ll work out a few little things to make a big difference.”

The Miners began set one with three consecutive attack errors, but a Tulsa service and attack error followed by an Austin kill helped the team even the set at three-all. That began a shootout between the Miners and Hurricane, with each capitalizing on the other’s attack errors before Jones hammered down a kill and King and Mallory Yost teamed up for a block to even the set at 12.

Two consecutive attack errors by Tulsa brought the Miners up 13-12 before the Hurricane’s Maggie Hembree again tied the set at 13. Nine plays continued to bring each team no greater than one point from the other, including four ties, before Tulsa called a timeout after another Austin kill and a block by Yost brought the score to 18-17 in the Miners’ favor.

Coming out of the timeout, King set up Austin for the sophomore’s fourth kill of the set, but Tulsa’s Callie Cook matched that to tie the set at 19. Consecutive Miner kills by Arellano and Jones brought the Orange and Blue up by two, but Tulsa answered back with two of their own to halt a Miner run.

Watts called a timeout to stop the Hurricane momentum, and Jones came out strong with a kill to again tie the match, 23-all. A service error by King, however, would lead to a Tulsa service ace to end set one 25-23.

Set two began just as set one had, with consecutive Miner attack errors before a kill by Jones and a Morgan-Austin block helped the Miners bring the score to 3-2, Tulsa. Attack and service errors would prove destructive for the Miners, however, as Tulsa began to pull away. A valiant comeback effort from the UTEP squad came up short, as the Hurricane took set two 25-15, and the 2-0 match lead.

Controlling the momentum, Tulsa came out firing in set three, blanking the Miners 4-0 before Kylie Baumgartner put a stop to it with a kill, putting her team on the board. UTEP stayed within reach of Tulsa, and Jones teamed up with Baumgartner to block a Hurricane attack and run, leaving the score 18-12 in Tulsa’s favor.

Impressive serves by Cebak, which included a service ace, helped the Miners stay alive at 22-17, but Tulsa called a timeout to slow down the Miner run. The Hurricane then ended the Miner comeback 25-19 to compete the sweep.

UTEP will return to Memorial Gym to prep for Texas Tech in the home opener. The Red Raiders will be in the Sun City on Wednesday, Aug. 30. First serve is set for 6 p.m. MT.

UTEP Volleyball Falls To Montana In Season Opener

DENTON, Texas- After coming out of the gates racing and winning set one, the UTEP volleyball team fell to Montana 3-1 in the season opener at the North Texas Invitational in Denton, Texas on Friday.

Briana Arellano paced the Miners’ offensive efforts, hammering down ten kills while adding six digs and a block. True-freshman Mallory Yost contributed to the effort with nine kills of her own out of 13 total attempts, hitting at a .615 clip. Setter Amanda King dished out 27 assists and registered four kills.

The six-rotation player also added five digs. Defensively, senior libero Dania Orozco led the Orange and Blue with 11 digs.

The Miners totaled 38 kills, 33 assists, 29 digs and 7 total team blocks, compared to Montana’s 55 kill, 46 assist, 25 dig and 8 total team block effort on the match.

Set one began with both teams matching the other’s points, starting with a kill by Yost that was mirrored by the Grizzlies’ Mykaela Hammer. Yost and Hammer had the first two points for their respective teams before another UTEP true freshman, Cheyenne Jones, registered a kill and Montana had an attack error, bringing the score to 4-2.

The Miners kept the Grizzlies stunned at three points while the Miners’ point total climbed to seven, helped by a kill by King from Orozco’s assist.

Montana would climb back into the game, but did not have see their first lead over the Miners until an assist error by King gave the Grizzlies the 13-12 advantage. It would not last for long, however, as Arellano’s kill helped set up a Jones’ service ace. Three-consecutive Miner kills, the first by Macey Austin, followed by Arellano, then Kylie Baumgartner, brought the team up 17-15. UTEP would hold on to that lead to take set one 25-22.

Set two began again with the Miners scoring first with a kill by Yost. The Miners held a 5-2 advantage and controlled the tempo in the set before the Grizzlies began to keep up. Montana then grabbed their first lead of the match after a service error by Orozco, bringing the score to 11-10.

The Orange and Blue would capitalize on three consecutive attack errors by the Grizzlies, beginning with a block assist by Baumgartner and Jones to shake up the opponent, to tie the game at 16-all.  Kills by Baumgartner and King, followed by another attack error by Montana forced the Grizzles to call a timeout to talk things over. That would help freeze the Miner momentum, as Montana regained the lead 21-20.

With the Miners fighting for the 2-0 set advantage and the Grizzlies looking to even up the sets at 1-1, the two teams battled back and forth before the game was tied at 24-24 due to a kill by Montana’s Janna Grimsrud, extending the set. A kill by Yost brought the Miners within a point of winning, but a Grizzly block, then a Montana service error kept the match going at 26-25, UTEP.

Hammer knocked down a kill and an assist error helped Montana to the 27-26 lead, which was then finished at 28-26 after a kill by Montana’s Baily Permann.

That would be the final frame the Miners held control, as a fired-up Montana team took set three 25-13, and set four 25-14.

The Miners, who were a last-minute entry in the North Texas Invitational after Hurricane Harvey forced the cancellation of the I-10 Cardinals Classic, will look to even their record when they face former Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA foe Tulsa. First serve against the Hurricane is set for 10 a.m. at the North Texas Volleyball Center in Denton, Texas.

 

GAME ON! UTEP Volleyball Joins North Texas Invitational, Opens Season This Weekend

 

The UTEP volleyball team will begin its quest to return to the Conference USA Championships when the 2017 season kicks off this weekend in Denton, Texas at the North Texas Invitational.

The team was originally scheduled to play in the I-10 Cardinals Classic, hosted by Incarnate Word, in San Antonio, Texas, but the tournament was cancelled due to the incoming Hurricane Harvey bearing down on the South Texas region.

The team was able to join the Invitational on Friday morning because Prairie View A&M withdrew from the tournament due to Hurricane Harvey. The Miners will meet with Montana at 6 p.m. (MT) on Friday, followed by a Saturday show-down with longtime former Western Athletic Conference and Conference USA foe Tulsa. First serve against the Hurricane is set for 10 a.m. (MT).

“We’re so thankful to North Texas for including us in their tournament,” UTEP head coach Holly Watts said. “We’re excited to get on the court.”

Both matches will be played at the North Texas Volleyball Center.   Live Stats

MONTANA SCOUTING REPORT
Series: Montana is 2-0 all-time against UTEP, but the meetings came in 1983 and in 2003. In 2003 the Grizzlies topped the Miners, 3-1, in a neutral-site match-up (9/12/03) as part of the UMKC Kangaroo Classic.

GRIZZLIES NOTABLES
Montana brought back five starters and eight letter winners overall from last year’s squad that forged a record of 5-21, including 2-14 to tie for 10th place in the Big Sky Conference. The Grizzlies are under the direction of first-year head coach Allison Lawrence, who is in her eighth overall year on the staff.

Junior OH Alexis Urbach is the top attacker back (231 kills) but Sophomore OH Missy Huddleston (195), junior Cassie Laramee (154) and Mykaela Hammer (143) also had 140+ kills in 2016. Sophomore S Ashely Watkins is the leading returnee for both assists (382) and digs (174).

TULSA SCOUTING REPORT
Series: The longtime former WAC and C-USA rivals will be locking up for the first time since 2013 when Tulsa edged UTEP, 3-2, in El Paso (11/15/13). The Miners hold a 28-24 advantage in the series, which dates to 1983, including a 101-92 cushion in games played.

GOLDEN HURRICANE NOTABLES
Tulsa is under the direction of fourth-year head coach and alum Ryan Wills, who returned two starters and seven letter winners overall from last year’s squad that forged an overall record of 19-13. The Golden Hurricane finished 8-12 in American Athletic Conference action to secure seventh place in the league. Junior OH/MB Rachel Moore paced the squad in blocks in 2016, including the fifth-highest single-season block assist total (103) in program history.

Junior OH Emily Thorson is the top attacker back; she finished at 1.65 kills per set last season to pace all returners. Thorson will be counted on to help replace Erica Bohannon, who was a three-time first-team all-conference honoree. Also back is sophomore S Mariah Pardo, who was second on the squad with 561 assists.

Fellow classmate DS/L placed fourth on the team with 289 digs in 2016, including 12 matches with at least 10.

EXPERIENCED TEAM RETURNS

Nine of the 13 players on UTEP’s roster are returning players, while the Miners add four freshmen to the mix. There is a level of competitive depth to this program, thanks in large part to smart and consistent recruiting.

ANALYZING THE DEPTH

Outside Hitters

UTEP has the most depth in the outside position with a total of five outside hitters. Junior Ashley Grzebeniak is the only returning upperclassman, bringing two years of experience and coming off a 148-kill season.

The Miners will also be loaded with sophomores Macey Austin, who was named to the 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman, and El Paso native Briana Arellano. In 2016, Austin started in 21 of 30 matches and led the team in kills (280) while Arellano saw action in 29 matches, starting in 14 contests.

Also returning is sophomore Ali Vidali, who has one year of experience and is continuing to develop as a player after appearing in 49 sets. Joining the group will be freshman Cheyenne Jones. The 6-foot-1 Missoula, Montana native brings tremendous size and power and is anticipated to make an immediate impact to the team.

Middle Blockers

At the middle blocker position, the Miners return juniors Kylie Baumgartner and Maddie Morgan and add freshman Mallory Yost.

Baumgartner brings two years of experience and once again led the Miners in blocks with 111 total (18s/93a) in 2016. Morgan also has two years under her belt, knocking down 102 kills and tallying 30 total blocks last season.

Yost adds size to the position at 6-foot-1 and should see plenty of playing time as the Miners work to develop her to the collegiate-level pace. She finished her high school career with 816 kills at a .377 hitting efficiency, 182 digs, 151 blocks (56s/95a), 11 assists and nine service aces.

Setters

Senior Amanda King will fill the void left with Lindsey Larson’s departure. The senior, who transferred to UTEP last season from Palm Beach State, made 25 starts in 30 matches and dished out 371 assists at a 3.28 average assists per set. As a six-rotation player, King also registered 192 digs, 18 kills, 14 service aces and 32 points.

Joining King will be freshman Sahara Martinez. The newcomer from La Verne, Calif., totaled 1,987 assists throughout her high school career and will help King in the rotation. 

Defensive Specialists

On defense, UTEP returns sophomore Niki Cebak, who brings one year of experience after taking the court for 29 matches with 10 starting appearances. Cebak registered 150 digs in 2016 and will be joined by senior Dania Orozco.

The El Paso native transferred to UTEP last season from New Mexico Military Institute and saw action in 23 matches, accumulating 50 digs. Freshman newcomer Abby Adams will join the group. The trio will work to fill Sarah Villa’s spot, who, as the starting libero in 2016, recorded 553 digs at 4.89 digs per set to lead Conference USA. 

2016 SEASON QUICK RECAP

The 2016 season was a year of growth for a young Miner squad. The team clinched its first Conference USA Championships bid in two years thanks to a four-game winning streak that ran from Oct. 30 to Nov. 6.

The Miners grabbed the eighth seed in the championships, but ultimately fell to eventual 2016 Conference USA Champion WKU in three sets. The Miners ended the season with a 8-22 overall, 5-9 conference record.

The season did not go with accolades, however, as seniors Lindsey Larson and Sarah Villa were named to the C-USA Second Team and Macey Austin was named to the All-Freshman team. Larson was also honored for her outstanding work in the classroom, being named to the C-USA All-Academic Team.

SCHEDULE BREAKDOWN 

The UTEP volleyball team will look to build on the 2016 season when its 29-match schedule begins on Aug. 25. Thirteen home matches, including two home tournaments, will take place in Memorial Gym this fall.

UTEP will open the year with 14 non-conference matches, including Texas Tech and New Mexico, before Conference USA play begins September 22 and will have the goal of returning to the Conference USA Championships come November.

UTEP fans will get their first look at the team, which returns 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman Team selection Macey Austin, Kylie Baumgartner, and El Paso’s own Briana Arellano, on Aug. 30 against Big 12’s Texas Tech in the historic Memorial Gym. The team will then host back-to-back tournaments, the Glory Road Invitational (Sept. 1-2) and the Borderland Invitational (Sept. 8-10). 

The Glory Road Invitational will bring New Mexico, Youngstown State and North Dakota to the Sun City and the Borderland Invitational will feature Samford, Delaware State and Abilene Christian.

The Interstate-10 rivalry match against NM State will go down in Las Cruces on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. and the Miners will kick start Conference USA play three days later with a two-game home stand beginning on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. against Rice in Memorial Gym and closing out with a Sunday match up against UAB at noon. Fans will then get to catch the team again at home Oct. 13 and 15 when they meet up with North Texas and UTSA at 6 p.m. and noon, respectively.

The team will return two weeks later to host LA Tech (Oct. 27) and Middle Tennessee (Oct. 29) to close out the month. The last home match will be against Marshall on Nov. 8 at 6 p.m.

HITTING THE BOOKS

UTEP proved they were hitting the books as hard as the volleyballs when they were announced as a recipient of the 2016-17 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award in July. The award honors teams who have matched their dedication to the sport of volleyball with excellence in the classroom.

The award, which was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. The AVCA Team Academic Award, celebrating its 25th year, is the single largest award offered by quantity of schools, players and coaches honored.

Since the 2000-2001 season, the number of recipients have increased every single year but two, while amassing a 532 team increase over the span of the last decade. Since the award’s inception in 1993, the amount of award winners has increased from 62 to its current number of 822.

CONFERENCE HONORS

Three Miners were recognized by Conference USA for their efforts during the 2016 campaign. Lindsey Larson and Sarah Villa, both seniors last season, were named to the C-USA Second Team while Macey Austin earned a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team. Larson concluded her collegiate career as UTEP’s  all-time leader in assists (2,677), service aces (71), total blocks (317) and block assists (292) while ranking second on the list in assists per set (6.17).

Larson was also honored for her outstanding dedication in the classroom after being named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team for the third time.

She sported a 3.93 GPA in civil engineering and was a regular member to UTEP’s Dean List and the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medalist list. Larson started in all 82 sets and is the only one in the league to notch a triple-double in 2016. Larson has registered a total of five triple-doubles on the season and 15 total double-doubles, the second-most in C-USA. Villa made her way to the list after denting the school record books for digs (1,369) and digs per set (3.71).

Villa also holds the conference record for most digs in a match with 45. After a breakout year, Austin was named to the All-Freshman team and led the Miners in kills (280) and kills per set (2.64). With three years of collegiate eligibility left, Austin already ranks 10th on UTEP’s all-time kills list and fifth for kills per set. Austin will be anticipated to lead the Miners on the front court.

STUDENTS FIRST

Though 11 of 12 players were named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, three secured C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals for maintaining a GPA of 3.75 or greater. Lindsey Larson, Macey Austin and Briana Arellano received the medal, Larson for the third time and Austin and Arellano for the first. 

Larson was also named to the C-USA All-Academic team. The three were also starters for the Miners.

EL PASO’S VERY OWN

The 2017 roster features two players from El Paso—defensive specialist Dania Orozco and outside hitter Briana Arellano. Orozco is a 2014 Americas High School graduate and joined the team last season after transferring from New Mexico Military Institute, where she played for two years.

The senior tallied 50 total digs last season and added a service ace and an assist. Arellano is a 2016 graduate from Canutillo High School and found immediate success as a freshman on the UTEP squad, knocking down 95 kills and picking up 220 digs, making her the leading defensive returner for the Miners. 

AUSTIN’S POWER 

After a breakout rookie year, sophomore Macey Austin will be anticipated to continue her dominance at the net. Austin led the team in kills (280) and racked up 2.64 kills per set in 106 sets played as a freshman last season.

She also registered double-digit kills in 14 matches including a season-best 18 kills twice. For her efforts, Austin was named to the 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman Team. The six-foot Keller, Texas native ranks 10th on UTEP’s all-time list for kills. 

RETURN TO THE ‘SHIP

The Miners earned a spot at the Conference USA Championships for the first time in two years last season, a feat they look to repeat in 2017. The team earned the eighth and final spot for the tournament, which paired them with top-seeded and eventual champion WKU, who swept the Miners.

A year of experience later, however, the team now knows what it takes to make the tournament and what to expect. The Orange and Blue will return nine letterwinners from last year’s championship-bid team, including seven who saw action at the tournament. 

FILLING THE VOID 

Three key players, Lindsey Larson, Sarah Villa and Tatum Winter, were lost due to graduation. The Miners will now reload this year to fill the void. Senior Amanda King, who transferred to UTEP last season, will take over Larson’s setter position. King dished out 371 assists in 113 sets and added 18 kills and will look to add more in her leadship role.

Niki Cebak and Dania Orozco will be in line to fill the libero spot left from Villa. Cebak played in 96 sets and picked up 150 digs, while Orozco played in 41 sets and tallied 50 digs. Abby Adams, a freshman, will also be in the runnings. Winter, a middle blocker, got help from juniors Kylie Baumgartner and Maddie Morgan.

Baumgartner led the team in blocks for the second straight year with 111 (18s/93a) and Morgan added 30 to the mix. The pair will be joined by Mallory Yost, who comes to UTEP after recording 151 blocks during her high school career. 

UTEP Volleyball Takes Down Western New Mexico in Exhibition

The UTEP volleyball team made their debut on Saturday, beating Western New Mexico 4-1 in an exhibition match that the two programs decided to take to five sets. 

The Miners edged the Mustangs in the first set 25-23 and took the second set 25-20 behind a strong hitting performance from Macey Austin and newcomers Cheyenne Jones and Mallory Yost. The Mustangs avenged the losses by taking set three 27-25, but the Miners bounced back with their strongest hitting percentage of the match (.375), to dominate set four 25-16.

Jones led the Miners in kills during the set, hammering down six in her seven attempts and Niki Cebak kept the UTEP defense in check with eight digs.

UTEP head coach Holly Watts and Western New Mexico head coach Jim Callender agreed to play one more set, which the Miners took 15-11.

“Our ball control and our ball handling was actually pretty good a lot of the match,” Watts said. “We just had a couple little runs there in the third set that ended up giving them a chance to win that one. We had a little bit of a lull in energy in the fourth and the fifth sets, but we were able to come back with a run of our own and push through to win.”

The Miners will now prep for the I-10 Cardinals Classic, hosted by Incarnate Word, Aug. 25-26. First serve against Tulane is 9 a.m. on Aug. 25 in San Antonio, Texas.

UTEP Volleyball Sets Exhibition Match For Saturday

The UTEP women’s volleyball team is set to take on Western New Mexico in an exhibition match on Saturday to prep for the 2017 campaign.

First serve against the Mustangs is 1 p.m. The match is free and open to the public.

This will be the first opportunity for fans to get a look at the 2017 team, which features 2016 Conference USA All-Freshman Team selection Macey Austin, junior Kylie Baumgartner, senior Amanda King and El Paso native Briana Arellano.

Austin hammered a team-leading 280 kills as a true freshman in 2016 and Baumgartner paced the squad with 111 total blocks as a middle blocker. King will be at the helm of the setter position and is anticipated to build on her 371 assists registered in 2016.

Arellano, a 2016 Canutillo High School graduate, will return as an outside hitter, but is also skilled defensively, tallying 220 digs as a true freshman.

The Miners will start the regular season Aug. 25 against Tulane at the I-10 Cardinals Classic, hosted by Incarnate Word.

UTEP Volleyball Earns Prestigious AVCA Team Academic Award

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The UTEP volleyball team was announced on Monday as a recipient of the 2016-17 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award.

The award honors teams who have matched their dedication to the sport of volleyball with excellence in the classroom.

“We have an incredible group of young ladies, both on and off the court,” UTEP head coach Holly Watts said. “I couldn’t be prouder of their classroom success. This group is establishing a new set of standards.”

The award, which was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale.

The AVCA Team Academic Award, celebrating its 25th year, is the single largest award offered by quantity of schools, players and coaches honored. Since the 2000-2001 season, the number of recipients have increased every single year but two, while amassing a 532 team increase over the span of the last decade.

Since the award’s inception in 1993, the amount of award winners has increased from 62 to its current number of 822.

UTEP will open the 2017 campaign with a trio of matches in San Antonio, Texas, at the I-10 Cardinals Classic. The Miners will take on Tulane on Aug. 25 (9 a.m. MT), followed by a contest against Louisiana-Lafayette the same day (2 p.m.).

The Orange and Blue will then conclude the weekend by taking on host school Incarnate Word on Aug. 26 (10 a.m.).

The home portion of the schedule will commence against Texas Tech on Aug. 30 (6 p.m.) in Memorial Gym, followed by the Glory Road Invitational (Sept. 1-2). The Miners will host New Mexico on Sept. 1 (7:30 p.m.) and will play a doubleheader on Sept. 2 against Youngstown State (1 p.m.) and North Dakota (7:30 p.m.).

UTEP Volleyball to Face LA Tech and Middle Tennessee on the Road

The UTEP volleyball squad will go on the road this week as the Miners travel to Ruston, La., to face off against LA Tech (10-15, 1-8 C-USA) at 6 p.m. (MT) on Friday before taking on Middle Tennessee (5-20, 2-8 C-USA) in Murfreesboro, Tenn. on Sunday at 12 p.m. (MT).

Last week, UTEP (4-18, 2-7 C-USA) fell short in both home matches played at Memorial Gym. The Orange and Blue lost, 0-3, to Western Kentucky on Friday and 1-3 against Rice on Sunday.

Against the Lady Toppers, senior setter Lindsey Larson connected for 22 assists and Macey Austin dished out a team-leading 12 kills. Larson finished second on the team with five total kills while Maddie Morgan and Ali Vidali recorded four kills each. Amanda King also contributed 10 assists to the Miner’s offensive efforts.

Sarah Villa led the defense with 12 digs while Briana Arellano and Larson finished with nine digs each. Four Miners (Kylie Baumgartner, Tatum Winter, Morgan and Larson) each recorded a block from the net.

As a team the Miner’s totals included 41 digs, 34 kills, 34 assists, four blocks and two service aces.

Macey Austin once again paced the Orange and Blue’s offensive efforts versus the Owls with a match-high 13 kills while adding a dig and a block. Ashley Grzebeniak followed with eight kills and added four digs and a block.

Lindsey Larson registered 18 assists and 15 digs for a double-double and also contributed with five kills and two service aces. Sarah Villa’s totals included 18 digs and six assists whileAmanda King reached 14 assists and four digs.

The Miners totaled 52 digs, 40 kills, 39 assists, seven blocks and two service aces while Rice notched 70 digs, 58 kills, 53 assists, 14 blocks and three service aces on the match.

LIVE STATS:

UTEP vs. LA Tech:

http://www.latechsports.com/gametracker/launch/gt_wvolley.html?event=1502812&school=latc&sport=wvolley&camefrom=&startschool=&

UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee:

http://sidearmstats.com/mt/wvball/

LIVE STREAM:

UTEP vs. LA Tech: http://conferenceusa.com/watch/

UTEP vs. Middle Tennessee: http://conferenceusa.com/watch/

SCOUTING LA TECH

Series: This will be the 15th meeting between the two Conference USA opponents. The Miners lead the all-time series over LA Tech with an 8-6 advantage entering Friday’s matchup. The Lady Techsters are currently 10-15 overall and 1-8 in C-USA action.  LA Tech is coming off a four-game losing streak; recently falling to FIU, 3-1 (25-15, 25-21, 19-25, 25-17) on Oct. 23.

LADY TECHSTER NOTABLES

Angela Papach leads LA Tech’s offense with a total of 305 kills (3.28 kills per set).  The senior right-side hitter registered a team-high 18 kills against FIU. She also boasts 169 total digs, tallied 351.0 points, and 22 service aces, and is sitting at No. 9 in conference for kills.

Brooke Short, a junior setter from Murrieta, Calif., totals 893 assists, as well as 200 digs. Marta Monne, outside hitter, recorded a double-double with 13 kills and 10 digs against the Panthers. Monne has registered 244 kills, 254 digs, and 264.5 points.

SCOUTING MIDDLE TENNESSEE

Series: UTEP is 4-0 against the Blue Raiders and this will be the fifth meeting between the two Conference USA opponents.  Middle Tennessee played UAB on Oct. 23 where the Blue Raiders’ efforts fell short as UAB claimed a 3-1 win. Middle Tennessee is now 5-20 overall, 2-8 in C-USA play.

BLUE RAIDERS NOTABLES

Middle Tennessee has a team hitting percentage of .140 and 999 kills. The Blue Raiders offense is paced by sophomore outside hitter Regan Coughlin, Bloomington, Ill. Coughlin has hammered 220 kills (2.53 per set), and contributes to defense with 230 digs.

Junior setter Jacqueline Lux has accumulated 781 assists, while adding 196 digs. Defensively, freshman libero Meg Irvin sets the pace with a total of 326 digs this season in 90 sets (3.62 per set). Irvin is ranked No. 10 in C-USA for digs.

Delaney Gallager, sophomore middle-blocker from Nashville, Tenn., contributes the most blocks with 56 total, while also registering the most service aces (22).

A NEW PRESENCE

This year’s Miner squad has a mix of youth and experience as the newcomers are providing impact along with the veteran members of the team. Freshmen Macey Austin has seen action in 75 sets, Briana Arellano in 70, Niki Cebak has participated in 69 sets and Ali Vidali has played in 37. Newcomer Amanda King is the only newcomer this season who has taken the court in all 82 sets this season.

BACK ON TOP

Senior defensive specialist and El Paso native, Sarah Villa made her way back to the top of the C-USA charts this week. The libero is first in the league with 5.15 digs per set and has a total of 422 digs on the season. LA Tech’s Alejandra Aviles follows with an average of 4.68 digs per set.

FILLING IN THE SHOES

UTEP’s freshmen have been making quite the splash in its first weeks of action. Macey Austin leads the UTEP pack with a team-best 200 kills while adding 32 digs, 19 blocks, two service aces and an assist on the season. Ali Vidali follows in suit with totals including, 71 kills, 30 digs, four blocks, three assists and two service aces.

Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 157 digs, 43 kills, 15 service aces, five blocks and five assists. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 99 total digs, 11 service aces and 14 assists. 

CANADA REPRESENTATION

Canada is well represented on the Miners’ squad this season. Three athletes (Lindsey Larson, Ashley Grzebeniak and Niki Cebak) on the roster are natives of the country and have made a tremendous impact since their arrival at UTEP.  Lindsey Larson is a product of Humboldt, Saskatchewan and is the Orange and Blue’s strongest weapon with 2016 totals including a team-best in assists (409) and service aces (21).

She owns a second-best team ranking in digs (232), kills (170) and total blocks (65). Sophomore Ashley Grzebeniak is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and provides the Miners with a powerful swing. She has racked up a total of 96 kills, 64 digs, 16 blocks (1s/15a), six service aces and two assists so far this season.

Redshirt freshman Niki Cebak is the final Canada representative from Airdrie, Alberta. The defensive specialist has a petite appearance, but has shown to have a powerful swing from the serving line with 11 service aces this season. Cebak’s other totals include 99 digs and 14 assists.

DOUBLE DOWN

Senior Lindsey Larson has made it a habit to reach double-digits in various categories in UTEP’s matches. She has reached a double-double in 14 of the Miners’ matches so far this season, which include five triple-doubles. She is second in conference in total double-doubles but she is the only one in the league to reach a triple-double.

Amanda King is second on the team with a total of five double-doubles and Ashley Grzebeniak has notched one on the season.

SHOW STOPPER

Sophomore Kylie Baumgartner has been a force at the net all season and leads the squad with a total of 80 blocks (12s/68a), which is more than she registered in the entire 2015 season (51 total blocks). She currently ranks seventh in Conference USA with 1.01 blocks per set. The California native, matched her career-high 10 blocks in a 3-2 win over UAB (9/25), which places her third in the league for most blocks in a five-set match.

ANALYZING THE DEPTH

OUTSIDE HITTERS

UTEP has the most depth in the outside position with a total of six outside hitters. The Miners returned Ashley Grzebeniak who brings a year of experience. Ali Vidali is a redshirt freshman who sat out the 2015 season due to a wrist injury. Vidali is joined by El Paso native Briana Arellano and Macey Austin from Fort Worth, Texas who bring tremendous size and power as incoming freshmen.

MIDDLE BLOCKERS

At the middle blocker position, the Miners returned senior Tatum Winter and sophomores Kylie Baumgartner and Maddie Morgan. Baumgartner was named to the C-USA All-Freshman team in 2015 after tallying 128 total blocks, 165 kills and 20 digs in her breakout season.

SETTERS

Senior setter Lindsey Larson is a key cornerstone as a six-rotation player. In 2015, she led the team with 1,064 assists and 35 service aces while finishing second in digs (369) and blocks (11s/93a). Larson not only works hard on the court but on her studies as well.

She is a four-time member of the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll, three-time C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medalist and a two-time C-USA All-Academic Team selection. Junior transfer Amanda King will also bring depth at the setter position this season.

DEFENSIVE SPECIALISTS

On defense, UTEP returned Sarah Villa, an El Paso native who was the starting libero for the majority of the 2015 season. As a junior, Villa set the C-USA record for digs in an individual match with 45 in a five-set battle against Southern Miss. The Miners also have Dania Orozco and Niki Cebak. Orozco is also from El Paso but played two years at New Mexico Military Institute as the libero.

TRIPLE VISION

Lindsey Larson is one of four in the nation with five or more triple-doubles this season and is the only one in C-USA to reach one. Larson notched her first triple-double of her career as she led the UTEP squad to a 3-1 victory over Bradley (9/3). She totaled 25 assists, 17 digs and 10 kills while adding four blocks and a service ace. She recorded two more at the UT-Arlington Invitational. Against Samford (9/16), the senior notched 22 assists, 13 kills, 11 digs and three blocks and versus UT-Arlington (9/17) her totals included 27 assists, 11 digs and 10 kills.

In the league opener (9/23), Larson totaled 22 assists, 18 digs and 12 kills while forcing Rice to five sets. In the victory over UAB (9/25), she recorded a career-high in digs and blocks with 28 and eight, respectively and added 10 kills and three service aces.

MINERS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS

The Miners have made their way back into the national rankings in various categories this season. According to the NCAA rankings that were updated on Oct. 25, Sarah Villa is 19th in the nation with 5.15 digs per set.

Lindsey Larson also cracks the national rankings as she is tied for fourth in the nation for total triple-doubles. Larson has registered a total of five triple-doubles on the season, trailing the top spot by only two.

Sophomore Maddie Morgan had an outstanding performance in a 3-1 victory over South Dakota State (9/3) in the preseason. She notched a .700 clip on 14 kills and is tied for the 14th spot for hitting percentage in a single match.

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