Photo: UTEP Athletics
The UTEP volleyball team will host three matches this weekend in Memorial Gym, starting Thursday.
First on the schedule is a non-conference matchup against UT-Rio Grande Valley (17-10, 6-5 WAC) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. (MT). On Friday, the Miners will go back to their conference schedule, as they will face Florida International (8-16, 2-8 C-USA) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. (MT). The Orange and Blue will then take on Florida Atlantic (13-11, 7-2 C-USA) on Sunday at 12 p.m. (MT).
Sunday’s match will serve as Senior Day as the Miners honor Lindsey Larson, Sarah Villa and Tatum Winter.
UTEP vs. UTRGV:
UTEP vs. FIU:
UTEP vs. Florida Atlantic:
UTEP vs. UTRGV: http://www.utepathletics.com/
UTEP vs. Florida Atlantic: http://www.utepathletics.com/
SERIES: The Miners take a break from conference play on Thursday’s match as they take on the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley. This marks the first meeting between UTEP and UTRGV.
UTRGV is 17-10 overall and 6-5 in conference (WAC) action. The Vaqueros are coming off a 3-0 sweep against Grand Canyon University on Oct. 29. Right-side hitter Bojana Mitrovic led the Vaqueros against GCU with 17 kills and five blocks. The junior contributes 290 kills overall (3.33 per set) to the team’s collective 1,369 kills.
Sophomore Ragni Steen Knudsen leads the team in defense and offense. The outside hitter totals 386 kills (3.68 per set), 272 digs, and 442 points. Knudsen posted 10 kills, two aces, and 12 digs against GCU. Middle blocker Alexandria Ecker (149 kills) hits a team-leading .283 clip. The Vaqueros tally 1,704 digs as a team with an average of 16.23 per set.
SERIES: Friday’s match marks the third meeting between the Panthers and the Miners. The series is tied 1-1 where the Miners fell 3-0 to the Panthers in their matchup last year (10/04/15).
FIU is coming off a loss in three straight sets (25-18, 25-11, 25-15), against conference opponent Florida Atlantic. The Panthers are 8-16 overall and 2-8 in Conference USA play. The Panthers’ offense is led by senior Katie Hogan who tallies 257 kills, (3.10 per set) and has accumulated 299.0 points.
Junior middle blocker Jennifer Ene led FIU against FAU with seven kills and five blocks. Ene has a team-high hitting average of .253 to aid the Panther’s efforts. On the defensive side, redshirt freshman Lina Bernier boasts 204 digs (2.46 per set) to pace the Panthers’ total digs. Hogan also proves her defensive talents, adding 190 digs and 45 total blocks to FIU’s numbers. Bernier posted five digs and two blocks against FAU.
SERIES: Sunday’s matchup will be the fourth match between the Owls and the Miners, with Florida Atlantic holding the edge over UTEP 1-2. In their last face-off (10/02/15), UTEP dropped a 3-0 (14-25, 13-25, 14-25) decision to FAU.
FAU is 13-11 (8-2, C-USA) for the 2016 campaign. The Owls fell to third place in C-USA standings after a four-set loss, 3-1 (19-25, 26-24, 25-19, 25-14) against Marshall on Oct. 30. The loss snapped an eight-game winning streak. Outside hitter Maja Ristic paced the Owls with 16 kills against Marshall and added 11 digs for her ninth double-double of the season.
Ristic leads the Owls’ offense with 336 kills (3.61 per set), and 29 service aces. Ristic has a C-USA Offensive Player of the Week honor this season (Oct. 17) and ranks fourth in conference for total kills. Senior Brianne Wojciakowski (152 kills) hits a team-leading hitting clip of .324. On the defensive side, Ristic (211 digs), and Wojciakowski (69 total blocks) pace the team.
The UTEP volleyball team will be honoring seniors Lindsey Larson, Sarah Villa and Tatum Winter on Sunday as they take the court for the last time at Memorial Gym.
Larson served as a captain in the past two seasons and her outstanding leadership shines through on and off the court. She is a Regular Member on UTEP’s Dean List and has appeared on C-USA’s Commissioner’s Honor Roll from 2012-2015. The Civil Engineering major has also garnered C-USA Academic Medals in the past three years.
The setter has also been named to C-USA’s All-Academic Team in back-to-back seasons (2014-2015). In her career as a Miner, Larson has seen action in 345 sets with totals including 1,719 assists, 720 digs, 484 kills, 241 blocks and 45 service aces.
Villa is a native of El Paso who has proved herself to both her coaches and her teammates throughout her career. The defensive specialist earned her spot as the starting libero in 2015 and serves as team captain in 2016 along with Larson. She reached 1,000 career digs this season and currently totals 1,143. Her other totals include 190 assists, 30 service aces and 14 kills.
Winter came to UTEP in 2015 after transferring from Scottsdale Community College. She has seen action in 136 sets since her arrival in El Paso. She has registered 163 total kills, 99 blocks, 77 digs, 11 service aces and 10 assists.
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 82 sets, Briana Arellano in 77, Niki Cebak has participated in 75 sets and Ali Vidali has played in 38. Newcomer Amanda King is the only newcomer this season who has taken the court in all 89 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 5.19 digs per set and has a total of 462 digs on the season.
FILLING IN THE SHOES
UTEP’s freshmen have been making quite the splash in their debut as collegiate athletes. Macey Austin leads the UTEP pack with a team-best 222 kills while adding 33 digs, 21 blocks, two service aces and an assist on the season. Ali Vidali follows in suit with totals including, 73 kills, 32 digs, four blocks, three assists and two service aces. Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 171 digs, 59 kills, 17 service aces, six blocks and five assists. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 114 total digs, 13 service aces and 16 assists.
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 (456) and service aces (21). She owns a second-best team ranking in digs (257), kills (185) and total blocks (71). Sophomore Ashley Grzebeniak is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and provides the Miners with a powerful swing. She has racked up a total of 110 kills, 69 digs, 17 blocks (1s/17a), four service aces and three 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 13 service aces this season. Cebak’s other totals include 114 digs and 16 assists.
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 15 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.
Sophomore Kylie Baumgartner has been a force at the net all season and leads the squad with a total of 83 blocks (13s/70a), which is more than she registered in the entire 2015 season (51 total blocks). She currently averages 0.97 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
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.
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.