Photo: UTEP Athletics
The UTEP volleyball team returns home to take on UTSA (10-3, 1-0 C-USA) on Sunday at 12 p.m. (MT).
The Miners (3-11, 101 C-USA) opened conference action with a pair of matches on the road last weekend. The Orange and Blue started off the weekend forcing Rice to five sets, but it was not enough as the Owls defeated UTEP, 3-2, on Friday (9/23) in Tudor Fieldhouse in Houston, Texas.
The team went on to play UAB in Birmingham, Ala. on Sunday (9/25), where the squad was able to pull off a 3-2 victory over the Blazers to snap its seven-match losing streak.
Lindsey Larson led the team with two triple-doubles on the weekend. Against the Owls, the setter recorded a total of 22 assists, 18 digs, 12 kills and two blocks. In the win over the Blazers, Larson notched a career-high in digs (28) and blocks (8) while adding 18 assists and 10 kills.
LIVE STREAM: UTEP vs. UTSA: http://www.utepathletics.com/
Series: Sunday’s meeting will mark the 38th match between the Miners and Roadrunners, with the Miners holding off the ‘Runners 21-16. UTSA swept the Miners in both of last year’s conference matchups and are currently on a six game win streak against the Miners since 2012.
UTSA is 1-0 in conference, 10-3 overall as of Sept. 26. The Roadrunners face North Texas in C-USA play on Sept. 30. The Runners are riding high on a seven-game win streak that includes a win over Oklahoma, snapping the Sooners’ seven-game win streak, and Texas Tech. UTSA won its conference opener against Southern Miss, sweeping the Golden Eagles in three sets and will face a 6-10 overall, 0-1 in conference North Texas team on Friday before playing the Miners on Sunday. Leading the Roadrunners are outside hitter duo Dajana Boskovic and Marijeta Runjic.
Boskovic is racking up 5.51 points per set with 4.93 kills per set with 222 kills. Runjic is averaging 3.53 points per set with 3.17 kills per set and a .275 hitting percentage. The junior has recorded 149 kills in 47 sets. Defensively, sophomore Shelby Williams tops the Runners with 142 digs. The defensive specialist, who saw action as a true freshman last year, had 29 digs against Oklahoma, a current season and team high.
LARSON AND MORGAN’S ATTACK
Sophomore Maddie Morgan earned the top spot in the UTEP record book when she posted a .700 hitting percentage on 14 kills in a four-set victory over South Dakota State (9/3). Her performance puts her at eighth in the nation in single-match hitting percentage. Morgan has totaled 59 kills, 16 blocks, 16 digs and two service aces so far on the season.
Larson is second in the UTEP record book with a .650 hitting percentage on 13 kills in a four-set decision against Samford (9/16). The setter is fourth in the league and 25th in the nation in hitting percentage in a single match. On the season, Larson has accumulated 229 assists, 113 digs, 98 kills and 36 blocks.
MINERS IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
The Miners have made their way back into the national rankings in various categories this season. The team is currently 28th in the nation with 16.57 digs per set. Sarah Villa has made a major contribution to the team’s ranking, currently standing at third in the nation with 5.51 digs per set. UTEP registered 94 digs in its victory over Bradley (9/3) and its performance earned the top 19th spot for most digs in a four-set match.
Lindsey Larson also cracks the top-five as she is tied with two others for second 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 one.
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 eighth spot for hitting percentage in a single match. Larson has also made the list at no. 25 for recording a .650 hitting percentage against Samford (9/16).
Lindsey Larson is one of three 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.
Setter 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 11 of the Miners’ 14 matches so far this season, which include five triple-doubles.
She leads the conference in total double-doubles along with Madison McDaniel of Rice 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 three double-doubles and Ashley Grzebeniak has notched one on the season.
ANALYZING THE DEPTH
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.
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.
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.
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.
LOOKING AHEAD AT THE SCHEDULE
After its home match against UTSA, the Orange and Blue will take on NM State in Las Cruces, N.M., in a midweek match. The match will be played on Wednesday (Oct. 5) in the Pan American Center.
Following the non-conference match against the Aggies, UTEP will host a pair of matches on the weekend. The squad will host Charlotte on Friday (Oct. 7) and Southern Miss on Sunday (Oct. 9).
UTEP’s freshmen have been making quite the splash in its first weeks of action. Macey Austin leads the pack with a team-best 126 kills while adding 20 digs, 13 blocks, two service aces and an assist on the season. Ali Vidali follows in suit. Her totals include, 52 kills, 25 digs, four blocks, three assists and a service ace.
Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 93 digs, 36 kills, six service aces, five blocks and two assists. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 65 total digs, 10 assists and six service aces.