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H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Volleyball Opens Conference Play at Home

The UTEP volleyball team will begin Conference USA play when it hosts Rice and UAB during a two-game home stand this weekend.

The Miners will host the Owls on Friday, September 22, at 6 p.m. in Memorial Gym and round out the opening weekend of conference play against UAB at noon on Sunday.

The Miners wrapped up non-conference action on Tuesday against rival NM State in Las Cruces, where the Aggies got the best of the Miners in three sets. Freshman Cheyenne Jones paced the Miner offense with eight kills, followed by Macey Austin with six and Ali Vidali with five.

Amanda King and Sahara Martinez split the setter duties, with King dishing out 14 assists and Martinez adding 10 of her own. Almost every Miner who stepped on the court recorded a dig, with Briana Arellano leading the defense with 11 while libero Niki Cebak followed with eight.

The Miners had three service aces on the day, one apiece from Mallory Yost, Arellano and Cebak and also recorded eight block assists, including two from Yost and two from Austin.

UTEP will be looking for a jump in conference standings with the opening weekend and to improve a 3-10 record. The Owls are 10-4 in non-conference action and the Blazers will put their 6-9 record on the line when it meets with Middle Tennessee on Friday prior to Sunday’s matchup.

Fans can get into Friday’s match for free if they bring a canned food.

Live stats will be available for both matches and Sunday’s match will be live streamed from Memorial Gym.

LIVE STATS  | LIVE STREAM AGAINST UAB

RICE Scouting Report
Series: Friday’s match will mark the 43rd meeting between the Owls and Miners, with Rice holding the all-time series lead 33-9. The two first met twice in 1983, first at the Texas Centennial Open in Austin, Texas, when the Owls beat the Miners 3-0. They met again that same year, with Rice taking the match 3-1. They last met on Oct. 23, 2016, when the Owls took a 3-1 victory in Memorial Gym.

OWL Notables
Rice is coming off a five-game winning streak, including three victories that led the Owls to the Rice Adidas Invitational title. The team leaders for the Owls include outside hitter Nicole Lennon with 214 kills and 132 digs so far this season. Lennon was also named Conference USA Freshman of the week for the second time this season as well as the MVP for the tournament after recording 20 kills or more per game and three double-doubles.

Alongside Lennon will be junior McKay Kyle with 121 kills and 32 block assists so far this season. Meanwhile, sophomore Lee Ann Cunningham, a 2016 C-USA All Freshman team performer and C-USA Defensive Player of the Year, has taken care of the defense with 283 digs so far this season. With a 10-4 record, the Owls lead conference in digs per set (17.4) as well as kills per set (13.5) are looking to showcase that when they open conference games against UTEP.

UAB SCOUTING REPORT
Series: Sunday’s match will be the 19th meeting between UAB and UTEP, with UAB holding 12 wins and UTEP the other six. The two first met in 2003 at the Fiesta Bowl Tournament in Flagstaff, Ariz. when the Miners ran away with the 3-2 victory. They last met on September 25, 2016 when the Miners beat the Blazers 3-2 in Birmingham, Ala.

BLAZER NOTABLES
The Blazers dropped to 6-9 after a 3-1 loss to instate rival Alabama State on Sept. 19. Prior to the setback, UAB had won three consecutive matches after a 3-8 start to the 2017 campaign. The Blazers took down Mississippi Valley State (3-0), Western Carolina (3-1) and New Orleans (3-0) during the win streak (Sept. 15-19).

Overall on the season, the Blazers rank fourth in Conference USA in team blocks per set (2.22), while ranking first in C-USA in kills (792) and third in total digs (882). The Blazers also ranks first in C-USA in assists (718). UAB ranks sixth in hitting percentage (.225) and opponent hitting percentage (.190). Senior OH Erika Zembyla ranks seventh in C-USA in aces per set (0.39), while also ranking first in conference in total service aces (22). Junior MB Victoria Young ranks sixth in C-USA with 1.06 blocks per set.

Senior OH Jared Haley leads the squad in total attacks (539), while also leading the Blazers in kills (180), points (199.0) and points per set (3.55). Freshman OPP/OH Petra Silic ranks third in C-USA with a .385 hitting percentage. The Blazers will open their C-USA slate on Sept. 22 at Middle Tennessee before taking on UTEP.

BATTLE OF I-10 RECAP
The UTEP women’s volleyball team fell to rival NM State 3-0 in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union’s Battle of I-10 at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M on Tuesday. The Miners kept it close, but the Aggies prevailed 25-19, 25-19 and 25-18. Freshman Cheyenne Jones paced the Miner offense with eight kills, followed by Macey Austin with six and Ali Vidali with five.

Amanda King and Sahara Martinez split the setter duties, with King dishing out 14 assists and Martinez adding 10 of her own. Almost every Miner who stepped on the court recorded a dig, with Briana Arellano leading the defense with 11 while libero Niki Cebak followed with eight. The Miners had three service aces on the day, one apiece from Mallory Yost, Arellano and Cebak and also recorded eight block assists, including two from Yost and two from Austin.

In total, the Miners recorded 29 kills, 26 assists, 46 digs, eight block assists, and three service aces. The Aggies notched 41 kills, 39 assists, 47 digs, 20 block assists, and four service aces.

Arellano’s all-around game
Sophomore outside hitter Briana Arellano has shown she can play all-around, picking up 11 digs against the Aggies to lead the team. It was the fourth time Arellano recorded double-digit digs in a match, with her season-high being a 14-dig performance against Portland at the Nike Invitational last weekend, and currently has 91 digs on the season. Arellano also tallied two kills and once ace.

VIDALI GOES FOR FIVE
Ali Vidali recorded a season-high five kills against NM State and also added five digs to bring her season total to 26 on the season. The sophomore outside hitter grabbed 5.5 points for the Miners during her perfomance, with the half-point coming from a block assist.

FRIDAY NIGHT PROMOTIONS
Fans can enter Friday’s match against Rice for free if they bring canned goods to donate. Friday will also be “Noche Latina” and will feature a mariachi performance and salsa dancers during the intermission between the second and third sets.

UAB Downs UTEP 5-0; Senior Weekend set for May 6-7

BIRMINGHAM, Al. – UAB (19-29, 10-9 Conference USA) poured on five runs in the first inning to take an early lead against UTEP (11-34, 5-16 C-USA) on its way to a 5-0 victory. The contest was called in the fifth inning after heavy rainfall on Sunday at Mary Bowers Field.

The Blazers jumped on the Miners early when Joanna Fallen put her squad on the board first with a RBI single to right that scored leadoff hitter Destini England. Molli Garcia put two more runs with a single through the left side, while Amy Waters drove in the fifth run on a double to left field.

Cortney Smith and Kiki Pepi led off the fourth with back-to-back singles, while Smith advanced to third and Pepi to second on the throw. But the Miners couldn’t sustain more offense to punch the runners across the home plate.

UTEP recorded five hits on the day as Brianna Red reached base twice (walk in third inning, single in fifth).

Kaitlin Ryder and Lindsey Sokoloski each went 1-for-3. Kaitlin Fifield (2-9) got the start and Erika Harrawood finished the contest, throwing 4.0 frames.

Up Next

UTEP will finish out the 2017 season by hosting defending C-USA champions Florida Atlantic on Senior Weekend (May 6-7). The Miners and Owls will play a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 3 p.m. Sunday’sSenior Day contest will start at 1 p.m.

Seniors Kaitlin Fifield, Taylor Grohmann, Miranda Gutierrez, Erika Harrawood and Kiki Pepi will be honored following the contest. Part of the Senior Day festivities will include the fathers of each senior throwing out the first pitch.

HP Sports In-Depth: UTEP to Play at UAB Following Bye Week

The UTEP softball team will continue its 2017 campaign with a trip to Conference USA West Division foe UAB April 29-30. The Miners (11-31, 5-13 C-USA) are coming off their bye week, while the Blazers (16-29, 7-9 C-USA) are coming off a loss at Middle Tennessee on April 22.

The Miners and Blazers will play a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. CT/Noon MT on Saturday, while the series finale will be played on Sunday (1 p.m. CT) at Mary Bowers Field.

The weekend series in Birmingham will be the first of six final regular season games leading up to the C-USA Tournament May 10-13 in Hattiesburg, Miss. UTEP will close out the regular season against the defending C-USA Champions Florida Atlantic May 6-7.

MINERS FOLLOWING A BYE WEEK

UTEP is 4-2 the last two seasons following a bye week. In the 2015, following three losses at no. 25 UABMarch 14-15, the Miners responded by winning two of three against Southern Miss in El Paso (March 28-29). Last season, UTEP won two of three at Middle Tennessee (April 16-17). UTEP did not have a bye week in 2014 as it was scheduled to play at Colorado State in a three-game set April 5-6.

POSTSEASON PICTURE

UTEP is currently on the outside looking in the postseason outlook. Marshall (15-3 C-USA East) and LA Tech (13-5 West) have clinched spots while there are six spots remaining for the C-USA Tournament. The top three programs in each division will clinch a spot and the next two schools with the best record will seal the final two spots.

FIU (11-6 East), Florida Atlantic (10-8 East), North Texas (11-10 West) and UAB (7-9 West) are the next best four teams regarding league record, while WKU (10-10) and UTSA (9-12 West) would clinch spots if regular season ended today. Charlotte (7-10 East), Southern Miss (7-13 West), Middle Tennessee (5-11 East) and UTEP round out the list.

LAST SERIES

UTEP lost three contests at LA Tech April 14-15. The Miners fell in a pair of close contests on Friday, 4-2 and 4-0. The Lady Techsters took game three 8-0 in five. Taylor Sargent kept a hot bat as she hit .375 (3-8) with a double and a two-run triple. Kaitlin Ryder hit .333 with a run scored, while Lindsey Sokoloski also hit .333 and did not strikeout during the weekend.

ALL-TIME SERIES VS. UAB

The Blazers are 21-9 all-time against the Miners since May 6, 2006. UTEP has lost its last nine contests against UAB (April 20, 2013-April 24, 2016). UTEP last defeated UAB on April 22, 2012 in El Paso by the score of 7-0. The Miners were swept last season by the Blazers in El Paso. Cortney Smith went 4-for-10 with a pair of home runs and four RBI, while Courtney Clayton hit .545 (6-11) with a long ball and a pair of RBI.

UAB pulled away late in game one with the score knotted at 1-1 through four innings. The Blazers scored five in the fifth, three in the sixth and another run in the seventh to claim victory.

The Miners and Blazers slugged one out in game two as both squads each recorded 12 hits. The Miners took an early 3-0 lead after a Danielle Pearson RBI double and a Smith two-run single in the first frame. After UAB took a 4-3 lead, the Miners would tie the score in the second on a Kaitlin Ryder solo home run. After the Blazers took a 7-5 lead after three frames, Kiki Pepi scored on an error in the fourth that brought the Miners within a run.

But the Blazers used two runs in the seventh to put the game away. The Miners would go on to lose a heartbreaker in the series finale as UAB scored three runs in the seventh to claim a 4-2 victory. Following a run by the Blazers for a 1-0 edge in the fourth, the Miners would score runs in the fifth (Smith solo home run) and the sixth (Hope Moreno RBI single) for a 2-1 advantage.

UTEP is also 2-13 all-time in Birmingham, as the Miners took two of three from the Blazers during the 2009 season.

SCOUTING UAB

The Blazers are coming off a pair of losses, the first to no. 9/10 Washington, 6-0, on April 20 and another to at Middle Tennessee, 3-1, on April 22. UAB and Middle Tennessee were rained out on April 23 and rescheduled the two-game set for May 3 in Murfreesboro.

UAB is 16-29 overall and 7-9 in Conference USA. The Blazers are 8-9 on their home field and 3-2 in their last five home games – won two of three against North Texas (April 14-15), defeated Samford 4-3 [8] (April 18) and fell to Washington.

UAB ranks last in the conference with its .219 batting average, while its 132 runs are the least. UAB ranks eighth in the ERA (3.55) and walked a league-high 188 batters but have struck out 223 (ranked fourth in C-USA). UAB also ranks last in slugging (.314), on-base percentage (.298), hits (258) and RBI (114). The Blazers rank last in fielding percentage (.949) while their errors (73) are the most in the league. UAB has turned 22 plays, the third most in C-USA. Analyse Petree leads the team with a .278 batting average, while Madison Millsaps leads the squad in RBI (17).

Joanna Fallen and Millsaps each lead the team with five home runs apiece; Petree leads in doubles (seven) and Destini England leads the squad in runs (20) and hits (38). Claire Blount (7-10) leads the staff in wins, ERA (2.84), walks (88), innings (138.0) and Ks (114). Blount’s 114 strikeouts rank tied fourth in C-USA. Cara Goodwin (4-11) has a 3.85 ERA in 91.0 frames of work with 37 BBs and 70 Ks.

#TURNUP

UTEP turned three more double plays at LA Tech during Easter Weekend. The Miners lead Conference USA with 27 double plays turned, while they rank second nationally in double plays per game (.64) behind Auburn (.77). Auburn as turned a national-best 36 double plays, while Campbell has turned 29. UT Arlington has been part of 28 double plays, and UTEP and UC Riverside have turned 27 each.

Taylor Sargent andCourtney Clayton have each been part of 12 DPs to rank tied fourth with Florida Atlantic’s Lauren Whitt.Cortney Smith (11) ranks tied seventh with LA Tech’s Katie Smith and Kiki Pepi (10) is tied ninth with three other players.

SECOND MOST DOULBE PLAYS

UTEP’s 27 double plays turned in 2017 is already the second most turned in program history. Last season’s squad turned a program-best 30 double plays. In fact, since Tobin Echo-Hawk arrived to UTEP, the Miners have turned 96 doubles plays in 201 games (.48 per game).

The 2007 squad turned 21, while 19 double plays were turned during the 2005 season. The previous four seasons (2010-13), 46 double plays were turned.

BAT GIRLS

UTEP is hitting .299 to rank fourth in Conference USA and no. 58 nationally, while it would rank the third best average in program history if the season ended today. UTEP hit .307 in 2016 and .303 in 2007. UTEP’s slugging (.415) ranks fifth, while its hits (342) rank sixth. Marshall leads C-USA in batting (.321), while UTSA leads with 396 hits.

UTEP RANKINGS IN C-USA ONLY GAMES

The Miners rank second in batting average (.308) and hits (152) in Conference USA games only behind UTSA (.310 average & 181 hits). UTEP ranks fifth in runs scored (76), on-base percentage (.363), RBI (73) and fourth in total bases (200). UTEP ranks third in slugging (.405). LA Tech leads the way in runs scored (96) and RBI (89).

EXTRA BASE HITS

UTEP tallied a triple and double at LA Tech. The Miners rank fourth in Conference USA with 10 triples and seventh with 49 doubles. The Miners rank third in C-USA and no. 49 nationally with .24 triples per game.

Binghamton leads the nation with .49 triples per game and Florida State leads the nation with 20 triples (.42 per game). Marshall and LA Tech are tied for the lead league with 12 triples and Southern Miss (11) ranks third.

5 IN THE TOP 25

UTEP has five players ranked in the top 25 in Conference USA in batting. Taylor Sargent (.351) ranks 13th,Kaitlin Ryder (.350) ranks 14th, Kiki Pepi (.339) ranks 15th, Cortney Smith (.336) ranks 16th, andCourtney Clayton (.315) ranks no. 25.

UTEP has the most players in the top 25, while Marshall, Charlotte, North Texas and FIU each have three. Middle Tennessee and UTSA each have two. Florida Atlantic, WKU, LA Tech and Southern Miss each have one.

RACKING UP HITS

The Miners have connected on 342 hits, ranking sixth in Conference USA. UTEP’s 17 hits at UTSA (April 1) are tied for the most during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era, as 17 hits were recorded against Incarnate Word on Feb. 11, 2016. The 17 knocks are tied for eighth on the all-time list. Last season, the Miners set a single-season record with 451 knocks.

MORE ON THE HIT PARADE

UTEP has recorded 10-plus hit games 79 times during the Tobin Echo-Hawk era. The previous four seasons, the Miners tallied 10-plus hits in 50 contests. Since Echo-Hawk took the helm at UTEP, the Miners are hitting .298 (1,611-5,415), while the previous four years saw a .268 average (1,462-5,462). The Miners have connected on 15-plus hits in 14 different contests from 2014-17 and eight different times from 2010-13. The most hits recorded the last eight seasons were 24 at Brown on March 3, 2012 – tied most in program history.

H-P Sports In Depth: Miners Start 4 Game Road Trip at UAB Thursday

UTEP (6-14, 3-5 C-USA) starts a four-game roadswing- its longest in league play in 11 years– by locking up with UAB (10-10, 3-6 C-USA) at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala., at 6 p.m. MST/7 p.m. CST Thursday.

The last time the Miners had four straight league road tilts was in 2005-06 (first year in C-USA). UTEP enters with momentum, having knocked off Marshall, 84-74, last time out on Jan. 28.

UAB has dropped back-to-back games, including a 64-59 setback at Southern Miss last time out on Jan. 28. The Blazers are 7-4 at home on the year, including 3-2 in league play. UTEP is 1-3 on the road, 1-2 C-USA. UTEP is in search of consecutive victories for the first time this season.

The Miners are in the midst of playing seven of nine on the road.  In eight league games UTEP is shooting 41.5 percent (211-509), compared to 40.4 percent (207-512) by its opponents, but UTEP’s scoring margin is -4.2 (71.2-75.5).

Three pointers (UTEP 37-123, 30.1 percent; Opponents-46-143, 32.2 percent) and free throws (UTEP-111-195, 66.9 percent;Opponents 144-195, 73.8) have played a big role.

Duke Keith will have the call on 600 ESPN El Paso, KROD-AM Radio. There will be a live stream on C-USA.tv. (subscription based). Fans can also stay up-to-date by following the Miners (@UTEPWBB) or Blazers (UAB_WBB) on Twitter.

INSIDE THE SERIES

–  UTEP leads the series, 9-7, including picking up two wins last year. The Miners posted a 62-54 win in El Paso (1/10/16) before knocking off the Blazers, 62-59, in OT in Birmingham in the 2016 C-USA quarterfinals.

–  UAB still has a 5-3 series when playing in Birmingham.

–  This is the lone scheduled meeting on the year between the programs but they have met in the league tournament in two straight and four of the past five campaigns.

–  UAB claimed the first meeting ever between the programs, 61-41, on Dec. 20, 1990

–  The two squads did not square off again until the 2005-06 campaign when UTEP joined C-USA.

GETTING TO KNOW UAB

Overall: 10-10   Home: 7-4      Road 2-6        Neutral 1-0 | C-USA: 3-6    Home: 3-2      Road 0-4

–  UAB returned one starter and six letter winners total from last year’s team (15-16, 7-11 8th C-USA).

–  After a 1-2 start, UAB got things going by winning six of the next eight to finish non-conference action with a record of 7-4.

–  The Blazers were saddled with a 1-4 start to league play before posting consecutive wins to climb to 3-4. They have lost back-to-back contests since to slip to 3-6 in the league.

–  UAB is 3-2 at home in C-USA action and 0-4 on the road.

–  Three players produce at least 9.0 points/game, including leading scorer Rachael Childress (11.8 ppg).

–  Responsible for three of the top four three-point shooters in C-USA; they are in the form of Miyah Barnes (24-58, 41.4 percent), Deanna Kuzmanic (41-103, 39.8 percent) and Childress (57-144, 39.6 percent).

–  UAB is in the top half of the league for three-point percentage (38.1-first), scoring defense (62.0-third),turnovers/game (15.0-third), assists/game (15.1-fourth), three-point percentage defense (29.6-fourth), field-goal percentage (43.3-fifth) and scoring margin (+4.2-sixth)

–  Nationally the Blazers have top-100 rankings for three-point percentage (18th), field-goal percentage (65th), assists/game (83rd) and three-point percentage defense (90th)

–  UAB has an all-time record of 595-549 since launching its program in 1978. The Blazers have made a pair of appearances in the NCAA (most-recent, 2000-Sweet 16) and five WNIT bids (most recent, 2013, First Round). UAB also won its own foray into the WBI in 2011.

–  The university was founded in 1969.

–  Notable alumni include Regina Benjamin (U.S. Surgeon General), Steve Chiotakis (co-host of the NPR morning report), Deidre Downs (2005 Miss America)  and Vonetta Flowers (2002 Olympic gold medalist in bobsled).

LAST MEETING WITH UAB (1) UTEP 62, (8) UAB 59, 3/10/16) | C-USA QUARTERFINALS

–  Top seed UTEP outlasted host (8) UAB, 62-59, in a wild overtime contest  in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Conference USA Championships at Bartow Arena on March 10.

–  The game appeared destined for double overtime when Chelsee Black, who led UAB with a game-high 19 points, banked in a halfcourt shot at the buzzer. But after an official review, it was determined that the shot came after time expired to send the Miners dancing into the semifinals for the fourth time in five years.

–  It was a hard-fought battle, with both the Miners (26-69, 33.3 percent) and Blazers (22-63, 34.9 percent) shooting worse than 35 percent from the floor. UAB won the boards, 45-44, but UTEP compensated by forcing 18 turnovers that led to 15 points.

–  Lulu McKinney (11 points), Jenzel Nash (11 points) and Starr Breedlove (10 points) hit double figures in scoring for the Miners. Nash also had six steals to tie for the second most by a Miner in a league tournament game.

–  Not to be lost in the madness were two milestone moments for the Miners; head coach Keitha Adams recorded career win 400 and seniorCameasha Turner became the 11th member of UTEP 1,000+ career point club (1,004).

 GOING BACK IN TIME at UTEP 84, Marshall 74 (1/28/17)

–  All five starters reached double figures in scoring and UTEP used a huge second quarter to power past Marshall, 84-74, at the Don Haskins Center on Jan. 28. The Thundering Herd led 17-12 after 10 minutes of action but the Miners had a +20 differential (30-10) in the second quarter to cruise into the locker room armed with a 42-27 advantage. The cushion swelled to as many as 21 (56-35, 4:40 3Q) and the visitors never truly threatened the rest of way.

–  Sparkle Taylor (25 points, four assists), Tamara Seda (15 points, 12 rebounds), Zuzanna Puc (12 points, 11 rebounds), Katarina Zec(career-high tying 11 points, career-high five assists) and Lulu McKinney (10 points, six assists, career-high tying five rebounds) keyed the charge for the Miners.

–  UTEP shot 40.8 percent (29-71) from the floor, won the boards (46-45) and converted 19 Marshall turnovers into 28 points.

–  The Miners racked up 23 assists on the 29 made field goals while also committing only 13 turnovers.

–  The 30-point burst in the second quarter was the Miners’ second-highest scoring total in a quarter (32 vs. WNMU) this year and ranks four on the program’s single-game records.

–  Jakeira Ford (five points), Ax Bernard (three points, two rebounds) and Faith Cook (two assists, no turnovers) made some contributions at key times to help buoy the starters.

THIS AND THAT ON CONFERENCE USA

–  Teams play all 13 members at least once and face five teams in home-and-home for 18-game C-USA slate.

–  The top 12 teams (14 in C-USA) will qualify for the single-elimination tournament (March 8-11, Birmingham, Ala.-UAB) with the top four teams as seeded by regular season standings receiving a bye. The winner will gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

–  Charlotte (7-1), WKU (7-1) and Middle Tennessee (7-2) share first place in the league with UTSA (6-2) one half game back. Southern Miss, LA Tech and Old Dominion tie for fifth (5-4) followed by Marshall (4-5).

–  UTEP and FIU share ninth at 3-5 with Rice, UAB and North Texas (3-6) one game behind in loss column. FAU rounds out the standings at 0-8 within the league.

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