The UTEP volleyball team (3-12, 1-2 C-USA) will head to Las Cruces, N.M. on Wednesday for a midweek match against I-10 rival NM State in the Pan American Center. The first serve is slated for 7 p.m. (MT).
The Orange and Blue forced UTSA to five sets on Sunday but the Roadrunner’s came out on top, 3-2 (22-25, 21-25, 25-15, 25-21, 10-15). The Miners out-blocked UTSA, 13-7, with sophomore Kylee Baumgartner leading the way with five assisted blocks and three solo blocks. Lindsey Larson and Tatum Winter made a contribution as well with four assisted blocks a-piece.
UTEP vs. NM State: http://stats.statbroadcast.
SCOUTING NM State
Series: Wednesday’s non-conference matchup will be the 82nd meeting for the I-10 rivals, with the Aggies holding the win margin 60-22. NM State swept the Miners in three sets in both meeting in 2015. The Miners have not beaten the Aggies since a five-set thriller in 2012. The Aggies were voted by league coaches in the preseason to win the Western Athletic Conference this season.
The reigning WAC regular season and tournament champion NM State (13-4, 4-0 WAC) is coming off a three set sweep of conference opponent Grand Canyon on the road last Saturday and is looking to continue a seven-game win streak. The last time the Aggies lost was Sept. 10 against PAC-12 Arizona in four sets. Pacing the Aggie offense are the junior outside hitter trio of Jordan Abalos, Sasha-Lee Thomas and Kassandra Tohm, along with sophomore Tatyana Battle.
Abalos has tallied 230 kills this season with a team-leading 3.83 kills per set and 0.33 service aces a set. She also has 181 digs. Battle has racked up 176 kills with 2.89 kills per set. Thomas, who was named the WAC Preseason Player of the Year, has put down 166 kills with 2.68 kills per set and a 2.51 hitting percentage.
Tohm is knocking down 2.55 kills per set, a total of 158 kills, and boasts a .284 hitting percentage. Defensively, the Aggies are led by El Paso native Ariadnne Sierra, who leads the team with 270 digs. The junior libero is averaging 4.35 digs per set. Sophomore setter Brianna Ainsworth averages 6.84 assists per set.
The team is first in C-USA in digs per set (16.28) for the second week in a row. The Miners have registered a total of 944 team digs on the season with four Miners sporting triple-digit totals in the category.
Senior Sarah Villa leads the team with a total of 315 digs while classmate Lindsey Larson follows with 167. Newcomers Briana Arellano and Amanda King total 107 and 105 a-piece. Red-shirt freshman Niki Cebak is also only 30 digs away from reaching the 100-dig mark.
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’ 15 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.
ANALYZING THE ROSTER
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.
FRESHMAN GAINING CONFIDENCE
UTEP’s freshmen have been making quite the splash in its first weeks of action. Macey Austin leads the pack with a team-best 137 kills while adding 20 digs, 15 blocks, two service aces and an assist on the season. Ali Vidali follows in suit. Her totals include, 54 kills, 26 digs, four blocks, three assists and two service aces. Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 107 digs, 37 kills, eight service aces, five blocks and four assists. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 65 total digs, 10 assists and six service aces.