Photo: UTEP Athletics
The UTEP volleyball team will be put the test this week as it concludes its Conference USA regular schedule at Marshall this week. Thursday’s contest in Huntington, W. Va., is slated for a 4 p.m. MT first serve from the Cam Henderson Center.
UTEP will clinch a berth in the C-USA tournament with a win over Marshall.
In last weekend’s action, the Miners extended its win streak to four-straight matches with wins over non-conference foe UTRGV (3-1), FIU (3-2) and Florida Atlantic (3-1). With the wins, UTEP improved to 5-19 overall and 5-8 in league action.
Against UTRGV (11/3), the squad’s offense was led by freshmen Macey Austin and Briana Arellano who registered 11 kills and 10 kills, respectively. Senior Lindsey Larson registered a double-double in the match as she notched 32 assists, 12 digs, seven kills and a block. Niki Cebak also made an impact on defense with a team-leading 20 digs while Sarah Villa totaled 15 digs.
When UTEP returned to its conference schedule the next day (11/4), five Miners had double-digit kills to power through one of C-USA’s top blocking teams, FIU. Austin shined once again with a 15 kills on 25 attempts with just three errors for a .480 hitting percentage. Arellano, Ashley Grzebeniak, Kylie Baumgartner and Tatum Winter each totaled 10 kills on the night while Lindsey Larson finished with 49 assists and added eight kills.
The defense was on point, limiting the FIU offense to a .189 hitting percentage. Villa led the charge with 17 digs, while Amanda King finished with 11 on the night. Winter topped UTEP with four total blocks.
Senior day was celebrated on Sunday against Florida Atlantic, where the Miners picked up their third victory of the week. The pack was led by Baumgartner who registered a career-best 11 kills at a .421 hitting efficiency and 12 blocks. Larson connected for 35 assists and added 12 digs, six blocks, four kills and a service ace. Villa totaled a team-high 13 digs in the victory.
After the successful weekend at home, the league named Baumgartner the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week.
LIVE STATS: UTEP vs.Marshall:
LIVE STREAM: UTEP vs. Marshall: http://www.herdzone.com/
Series: Thursday’s conference match will be the 15th meeting between the Thundering Herd and the Miners. The Herd holds the lead on the all-time record 9-6. The Miners fell to the Herd in the 2015 matchup 2-3.
THUNDERING HERD NOTABLES
Marshall will host UTEP with hopes of extending its three game winning streak. The Herd, tied for second place with UTSA and Southern Miss in C-USA, last look down Charlotte 3-2 on Sunday (11/6) to bring their conference record to 9-3, 20-7 overall. Pacing the Herd’s offense is the outside hitter duo of senior Cassie Weaver and freshman Jac’cara Walker and setter Madelyn Cole.
Weaver is averaging 3.27 kills per set and has also picked up 263 digs, while Walker has knocked down 309 kills and 3.32 per set. The two have combined for 686.5 total points. Cole, who just recently accumulated C-USA Setter and Freshman of the Week (11/7) accolades, has dished out 654 assists for her team (6.74 per set). Cole had a season-high 61 assists vs Charlotte. Defensively, senior libero Allie Kellerman leads the Herd with 455 digs (4.55 per set) and 6-1 freshman Madison Hill has 73 blocks, 12 solo blocks and 61 assisted blocks, to top the team’s leaderboard.
ON THE RADAR
After a successful weekend at home, middle blocker Kylie Baumgartner was named C-USA’s Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 7, making it her first weekly honor of her career. Baumgartner led the Miners to a perfect 3-0 weekend, keeping their chances for a C-USA Championship berth alive.
The sophomore provided a dominant performance in a 3-1 win over Florida Atlantic with 11 kills at a .421 hitting percentage combined with 12 blocks, the most of any C-USA player in a conference match this season. Her 17.0 total blocks over the weekend pushed her into fifth place among C-USA leaders in blocks, averaging 1.01 per set.
On the season, Baumgartner totals 100 total blocks (18s/82a), 125 kills, 11 digs and six assists.
The Miners are currently on a four-match winning streak. Middle Tennessee gave UTEP a 3-0 win on the road on Oct. 30. Last week the Orange and Blue went undefeated at home against UTRGV (3-1), FIU (3-2) and Florida Atlantic (3-1).
UTEP is currently in the eighth spot of the C-USA standings. This week’s match will play a pivital role in the Miners’ post-season destiny. With a win over Marshall, UTEP will clinch a spot in the C-USA tournament that will be hosted Nov. 18-20 by Rice in Houston, Texas.
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 95 sets, Briana Arellano in 90, Niki Cebak has participated in 88 sets and Ali Vidali has played in 42.
Newcomer Amanda King is the only newcomer this season who has taken the court in all 102 sets this season.
RANKED IN C-USA
Senior defensive specialist and El Paso native, Sarah Villa is back on top of the C-USA charts this week. The libero is first in the league with 4.97 digs per set and has a total of 507 digs on the season. LA Tech’s Alejandra Aviles follows with an average of 4.71 digs per set.
FILLING IN THE SHOES
UTEP’s freshmen have been making quite the splash this season. Macey Austin leads the UTEP pack with a team-best 256 kills while adding 40 digs, 29 blocks, three service aces and an assist on the season.
Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 194 digs, 85 kills, 19 service aces, nine blocks and eight assists. Ali Vidali follows in suit with totals including, 74 kills, 33 digs, four blocks, three assists and two service aces. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 145 total digs, 16 service aces and 22 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 (572) and service aces (24). She owns a second-best team ranking in digs (285), kills (204) and total blocks (81).
Sophomore Ashley Grzebeniak is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and provides the Miners with a powerful swing. She has racked up a total of 135 kills, 74 digs, 25 blocks (3s/22a), four service aces and five 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 16 service aces this season. Cebak’s other totals include 145 digs and 22 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 17 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 and Kylie Baumgartner have 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 100 blocks (18s/82a). She currently ranks sixth in Conference USA with 1.01 blocks per set. The California native, reached a career-high 12 blocks in a 3-1 win over Florida Atlantic (11/6), which places her first in the league for most blocks in a four-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.