Photo: UTEP Volleyball

UTEP Volleyball Heads to North Dakota For Three

The UTEP volleyball team will hit the road for the second time this season when it travels to North Dakota to take on North Dakota, Bradley and South Dakota State.

The Miners (0-3) will open tournament action on Friday, Sept. 2 against North Dakota (1-2) in Grand Forks, N.D. at 6 p.m. (MT), followed by a double-header on Saturday, Sept. 3 beginning with Bradley (2-1) at 9 a.m. (MT) and concluding with South Dakota State (1-2) at 3 p.m. (MT).

UTEP went 0-3 in its season-opening tournament, the Oklahoma Invitational, last weekend. The Orange and Blue were defeated by UMKC on Aug. 26, 0-3 (14-25, 24-26, 19-25), and by Oklahoma, 0-3 (13-25, 16-25, 17-25), and Oral Roberts, 1-3 (25-22, 22-25, 20-25, 20-25), the following day.

Following the tournament, Lindsey Larson, who registered a double-double in each of the matches played over the weekend, was named to the Oklahoma Invitational All-Tournament team.


UTEP vs. North Dakota:

UTEP vs. Bradley:

UTEP vs. South Dakota State:



UTEP vs. North Dakota:

UTEP vs. Bradley:

UTEP vs. South Dakota State:


Series: This will be the first meeting between UTEP and North Dakota. Most recently, UND lost, 1-3 at South Dakota on Aug. 30. The Fighting Hawks opened the season by hosting the UND Classic, held Aug. 26-27. UND posted three-set victories over Omaha nd UC Davis, but fell short, 3-2 to Ole Miss.


Junior outside hitter Tamara Merseli paces the Fighting Hawks’ offensive efforts with 44 kills, and is followed by senior Chelsea Moser (37 kills). Merseli and Moser also contributed to the defensive side with 49 and 10 digs respectively. Alivia Fraase is the main defensive contributor with 66 digs (4.40 per set), while Jordan Vail aided with 18 total blocks (2s/16a).


Series: UTEP and Bradley will face off for the third in program history.  The Miners hold the edge in the series both previous contests.


The Braves are start off the 2016 campaign with a 2-1 record after competing in the Pepsi Panther Invitational last weekend in Milwaukee, Wis. Bradley only fell short to Milwaukee, 2-3, but swept both Western Illinois and Akron.

Senior middle blocker Kelsey Cave led the Braves last weekend on the offensive side as she totaled 40 kills (3.64 kills per set). Cave was followed by Erica Haslag who tallied 37 kills (3.36 per set). On the defensive side the Braves have a strong lineup, as sophomore defensive specialist Abby Ihrke leads with 42 digs (3.82 digs per set). Haslag (29 digs) and Olson (21 digs) also contribute to the defense’s efforts.


Series: This will be the third meeting between UTEP and South Dakota State. The last meeting (9/21/13) between the two opponents saw the Miners take a sweeping 3-0 victory over the Jackrabbits in Memorial Gym.


SDSU is off to a 1-3 start after dropping a five-set decision at Drake. To open the season, the Jackrabbits competed at the Green Bay Tournament held Aug. 26-27 in Green Bay, Wis. SDSU fell to both Green Bay and Stephen F. Austin before earning a straight-set victory over Eastern Illinois, 3-0.

South Dakota State has two solid attacking options; Ashley Beaner, who has recorded 51 kills and Nayza Thies who has registered a total of 39 kills. Mattison Munger contributes to the Jackrabbits’ efforts with 113 assists. On the defensive side Ellie Benson is the team’s main contributor as she boasts 40 digs with a 2.86 digs per set average.


Eleven of the 15 players on UTEP’s roster are returning players while the Miners added two freshmen and two transfers to the mix. There is a level of competitive depth to this program, thanks in large part to smart and consistent recruiting.


Lindsey Larson was named to the Oklahoma Invitational All-Tournament team after putting up an impressive performance against UTEP’s tough opponents last weekend. She tallied a total of 50 assists, 29 digs, 20 kills, nine blocks and three service aces while registering a double-double in each of the three matches the Miners played in the tournament.


Freshmen outside hitters Macey Austin and Briana Arellano showed off their talents at UTEP’s season-opening tournament in Oklahoma last weekend. Austin finished second on the team with 20 kills and added four digs, two blocks a service ace and an assist. Arellano followed in suit with 16 total kills, 11 digs, three service aces and a block to close out the weekend.


Senior Sarah Villa dented the Conference USA record books in 2015 by earning the top spot for digs in an individual match. The libero tabbed 45 digs while forcing Southern Miss to a five-set decision on Oct. 23, 3015. The El Paso native posted a total of 434 digs on the season and finished fifth in C-USA with an average of 4.34 digs per set.


The 2016 roster fashions a total of four athletes from the El Paso area, two more than last season. Senior Sarah Villa played for Burges High School before joining the UTEP squad in 2013 while sophomore Idalis Rodriguez joined the Miners in 2015 after graduating from Chapin High School earlier that year.

Dania Orozco and Briana Arellano are the latest additions to the list of local talents on the volleyball program. Arellano is a 2016 graduate from Canutillo High School and Orozco is a 2014 graduate from Americas High school. Orozco joins the team as a junior transfer from New Mexico Military Institute where she played for two years.


Senior setter Lindsey Larson has become the biggest contributor on the UTEP squad. in 2015, the six rotation player knotted 1,064 assists and triple-digits in three other categories. She registered 369 digs, 108 kills and 104 blocks while adding 35 service aces. Since joining the Orange and Blue in 2012, she has recorded a total of 2,108 assists, 702 digs, 307 kills, 237 blocks and 50 service aces.


In addition to working hard on the court, Lindsey Larson also puts in the same effort into her studies, landing a spot on the C-USA All-Academic team for the second consecutive season with a 3.90 GPA in civil engineering. The senior is a regular member on UTEP’s Dean List and appeared on the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medalist the past three years. She has also been named to the C-USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll from 2012-2015.


Kylie Baumgartner was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team last season, making it the second All-Freshman honor in head coach Holly Watts’ tenure. The middle blocker played in 116 sets and started in all 31 matches in 2015. Baumgartner finished third in the league and first on the squad in blocks per set (1.10) and 128 total blocks.



UTEP has the most depth in the outside position with a total of six outside hitters. Junior Dalainee Perry is the only returning upperclassman. She has two years of experience and is continuing to develop as a player. The Miners also have Ashley Grzebeniak and Idalis Rodriguez returning, who each bring 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.


At the middle blocker position, the Miners return 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.


Senior setter Lindsey Larson will be a key cornerstone as a six-rotation player. 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. Sophomore April Luther and junior transfer Amanda King will also bring depth at the setter position.


On defense, UTEP returns 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.


UTEP will open the year with 12 non-conference matches, including a pair of 2015 NCAA Tournament qualifiers (Arizona and Texas A&M). Following the North Dakota Invitational, the Miners will then head to Lubbock to face Texas Tech before co-hosting the Borderland Invitational with New Mexico State.

The Orange and Blue will open its home slate with a double-header against Texas A&M then Sacramento State in Memorial Gym while the remainder of the of the matches will be played in the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M. The following weekend, the team will head to the UT-Arlington Invitational to take on Samford, New Mexico and UT-Arlington.

Conference play will begin on Sept. 23 against Rice in Houston, Texas. The Owls are one of the three squads the Miners will play twice during the season (Rice, UTSA and NM State). The Conference USA Championships are slated from Nov. 18-20 and will also be hosted by Rice in Houston. The Orange and Blue will finish the regular season with a match against I-10 rival NM State on Nov. 23.