Photo: UTEP Athletics

UTEP Volleyball Set to Co-Host Borderland Invitational

After two weeks on the road, the UTEP volleyball team returns home to co-host the Borderland Invitational with NM State.

The Miners will square off against No. 16 Texas A&M at 12 p.m. (MT) followed by Sacramento State at 6:30 p.m. (MT) in Memorial Gym. The remainder of the tournament will played at NM State in the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M.

The Orange and Blue picked up their first pair of wins of the season last weekend at the North Dakota Invitational. The squad dropped its first match to North Dakota in straight sets on Sept. 2 but recovered with back-to-back wins on Sept. 3. First, UTEP took down Bradley, 3-1, in an early morning match then followed its performance with another 3-1 win against South Dakota State later that afternoon.

A couple of Miners had successful performances during their trip to North Dakota, beginning with Lindsey Larson, who recorded the first triple-double of her career with 25 assists, 17 digs and 10 kills. Sophomore Maddie Morgan topped the UTEP record book in hitting percentage in a four-set match against South Dakota State when she registered a .700 hitting percentage on 14 kills.

At the end of the tournament, senior Tatum Winter was named to the NDSU Classic All-Tournament team after putting up 17 kills, nine blocks, seven digs and a service ace to aid the Miners to a successful weekend.

Following the North Dakota trip, UTEP traveled to Lubbock, Texas, to take on Texas Tech Monday night at the United Supermarkets Arena but the Miners fell in straight sets to the Red Raiders.


UTEP vs. Texas A&M:

UTEP vs. Sacramento State:


UTEP vs. Texas A&M:

UTEP vs. Sacramento State:


Series: This Saturday will be the third time UTEP and No. 16 Texas A&M face off. The Miners and the Aggies last played each other in 1992. The Aggies hold the edge in the series over the Miners, 2-0.


Texas A&M is 3-3 overall during the 2016 campaign after traveling to Bayamon, P.R. for the Puerto Rico Clasico last weekend. The Aggies  fell to No. 16 Florida State, 2-3, and No. 6 Minnesota, 2-3, before sweeping Virgina Tech, 3-0 (28-26, 25-23, 25-15).

The Aggies bring a strong offensive team with All-American senior middle blocker Jazzmin Babers, who boasts a total of 67 kills (2.91 per set), and averages a .341 hitting percentage. Junior outside hitter Kiara McGee leads the Aggies in kills with 87 total (3.78 per set) while Kaitlyn Blake is third (57 kills)  with a .456 hitting average. Junior defensive specialist Amy Nettles paces the team with 67 digs (2.91 per set), followed by Stephanie Aiple (38 digs).


Series: This will be the second meeting between the Miners and the Hornets. UTEP last faced Sacramento State in 2006 in Memorial Gym, where the Hornets came out on top, 3-0.


For the 2016 campaign Sacramento State holds a 4-3 overall record after sweeping CSU Bakersfield, 3-0 on Tuesday night. Last weekend the Hornets competed in the UNLV Rebel Challenge as they fell to UNLV, 3-1, CSUN, 3-0, and Hofstra, 3-1. Sacramento State is hitting at a .233 percentage with strong offensive key players. Junior middle blocker Courtney Dietrich (43 kills) leads the Hornets in hitting with a .475 average, while junior outside hitter Shannon Boyle tops the team with 101 kills.

Senior outside hitter Morgan Stanley contributes with 83 kills (3.32 per set) and 47 digs. On the defensive side, senior defensive specialist Lexie Skalbeck leads the Hornets’ efforts by tallying 118 digs (4.92 per set). Junior setter Kennedy Kurtz (306 assists) aids the defense with 65 digs and seven blocks.


Sophomore Maddie Morgan earned the top spot in the UTEP record book last weekend when she posted a .700 hitting percentage on 14 kills in a four-set victory over South Dakota State (9/3). Morgan has totaled 33 kills, 11 blocks, 11 digs and two service aces so far on the season.


In a 3-1 victory over the Bradley Braves, UTEP tallied 94 total digs, placing it sixth all-time in the Miner’s record book for most digs in a four-set match. The Miners rank fifth in Conference USA with a total of 390 digs and an average of 16.25 digs per set. Senior Sarah Villa leads the way for the Orange and Blue with a total of 113 digs so far this season. Villa is second in the league and 75th in the nation with an average of 4.71 digs per set.


Setter Lindsey Larson is among six athletes in the nation to register a triple-double this season. The senior registered 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.


This season UTEP volleyball fans will be seeing some unfamiliar faces coaching the squad on the sidelines. Holly Watts is in her fourth year at the helm of the UTEP volleyball program but is joined by a whole new staff. Watts announced the addition of Jerry Wagner and Paty Figueiredo as assistant coaches earlier this year. Wagner comes to El Paso with 27 years of Division I coaching experience while Figueiredo is entering her first.

Before UTEP, Wagner was the Head Coach at the University of Montana for nine seasons. Figueiredo received her bachelor’s degree from Florida State in 2013, where she played her junior season. She missed her senior season due to a back injury suffered in the preseason. Prior to Florida State, Figueiredo spent two years playing for Missouri State University-West Plains.


Setter Lindsey Larson ranks first among C-USA leaders with six double-doubles on the young season. The senior has recorded a double-double in every match of tournament action.


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.


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.



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 returned Ashley Grzebeniak and Idalis Rodriguez, 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 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. Sophomore April Luther and junior transfer Amanda King will also bring depth at the setter position.


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.


Following the Borderland Invitational this weekend, the team will head to the UT-Arlington Invitational to take on Samford, New Mexico and UT-Arlington.

Conference USA 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 C-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.