The UTEP volleyball team (2-4) heads to Lubbock, to take on Texas Tech (4-2) Monday at 5 p.m. (MT) at the United Supermarkets Arena. The match will be played in the practice gym on the north edge of the arena.
The Miners are coming off back-to-back wins at the North Dakota Invitational over the weekend. The Orange and Blue defeated Bradley (3-1) and South Dakota State (3-1) at the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse on Saturday to claim its first two wins of the season but fell to North Dakota on Friday, 0-3.
TEXAS TECH FIGHTING REPORT
Series: Monday will mark the 26th match between UTEP and Texas Tech. In the last meeting, the Red Raiders increased their series advantage to 3-22 in Memorial Gym with a victory over the Miners in 2015. The Miners proved to be competitive forcing the Red Raiders to a lengthy third period, but it was not enough as Texas Tech took the set, 38-36 and the match in straight sets.
RED RAIDER NOTABLES
Texas Tech opens its home slate on Monday as it comes into the match holding a 4-2 overall record. Both UTEP and Texas Tech took part in the North Dakota Classic on the weekend but the squads were not scheduled to face off in tournament action. The Red Raiders took down South Dakota State (3-0), North Dakota State (3-2), and North Dakota (3-0) and are now on a four-match winning streak. Junior Courtney Ensch, who recorded five kills against the Fighting Hawks, was named to the NDSU Classic All-Tournament Team after posting 25 kills over the weekend. Leading the pack for the Red Raiders is two-time All-Big 12 honoree and All-Southwest Region award winner Lauren Douglass, who returns for her final year in the scarlet & black. Douglass has racked up a team-high 72 kills, averaging 3.13 per set. She also leads the team in blocks with 27.
SENIORS SETTING THE PACE
Seniors Lindsey Larson and Tatum Winter have been named All-Tournament selections in the first two weekends of action. Larson was named to the Oklahoma Invitational All-Tournament team after putting up an impressive performance against UTEP’s tough opponents in the opening 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.
Tatum was named to the NDSU Classic All-Tournament team last weekend, where she registered 17 kills, nine blocks, seven digs and a service ace.
Senior Lindsey Larson registered her first triple-double of her career on Saturday in a 3-1 victory over Bradley. The setter notched 25 assists, 17 digs and 10 kills while adding four blocks and a service ace.
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.
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.
THE BALANCING ACT
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.
After heading to Lubbock to face Texas Tech, UTEP will be 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 fromNov. 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.