Photo: UTEP Athletics
HOUSTON, Texas – After concluding the regular season, UTEP travels to Houston, Texas, as the Miners battle it out against Western Kentucky in the first round of the Conference USA Championship Tournament.
The squads are set to take the court at 11 a.m. (MT) on Friday. Rice will serve as host of the tournament from Nov. 18-20 at the Tudor Fieldhouse.
UTEP (8-20 overall, 5-9 C-USA) concluded the regular conference season at Marshall on Nov. 10, where the Miners fell to The Herd in straight sets (20-25, 13-25, 14-25) at the Cam Henderson Center.
Freshman Briana Arellano led the squad with seven kills with only two errors. Helping protect the net was senior Lindsey Larson, who posted three blocks, five digs, four kills and added 12 assists. Kylie Baumgartner matched Larson with three blocks and registered three kills on the night. Sarah Villa contributed the defense with seven total digs.
LIVE STREAM: UTEP vs. WKU: http://conferenceusa.com/
Series: Western Kentucky leads the all-time series over the Miners with a 5-0 advantage entering Friday’s meeting. The Lady Toppers finished the regular season with a 27-2 overall record and an undefeated 14-0 mark in league matches.
THUNDERING HERD NOTABLES
WKU’s offense is led by Alyssa Cavanaugh, an outside hitter from Louisville, Ky. The junior has hammered a total of 444 kills on the season while hitting at an impressive .338 clip. She has been named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week two times this season. Her other totals include 48 blocks, 61 digs and eight assists. Cavanaugh is followed by Rachel Anderson who has registered 337 kills at a .403 hitting percentage. Anderson’s other totals include, 87 blocks, 45 digs, five service aces and two assists. Jessica Lucas is the starting setter for the Lady Toppers and has achieved numerous accolades of her own.
Just this season, she has been honored as C-USA Setter of the Week five times in addition to earning a Co-Setter of the Week honor twice. The junior’s totals include 1,092 total assists, 256 digs, 133 kills, 63 blocks and 13 service aces. The Lady Topper’s strongest defensive weapons are Amara Listenbee and Georgia O’Connell.
Listenbee is a sophomore middle blocker out of Beloit, Wis. Who has a team-leading 97 blocks (24s/73a) on the season. O’connell serves as a defensive specialist on the squad and paces the team with 407 digs and adds 19 service aces. Three Lady Toppers (Anderson, Cavanaugh and Lucas) were named to C-SUA’s 2016 All-Conference First Team while O’Connell and Sydney Engle made it to the Second Team list.
WITH A WIN
The Miners would advance to play the winner of the No. 4 UTSA/No. 5 FAU match in the C-USA Semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 1:30 p.m. (MT).
Five Miners have reached triple-digit kills so far this season. Macey Austin is first on the team with a total of 259 kills but Lindsey Larson follows with a total of 208 kills. Ashley Grzebeniak finished third on the squad with 138 kills while Tatum Winter and Kylie Baumgartner totaled 135 and 128 kills, respectively. Maddie Morgan and Briana Arellano are relatively close to reaching triple-digit kills as well. Morgan needs three kills and Arellano would need eight kills to reach the 100-kill mark.
Senior Lindsey Larson is a six-rotation player and is UTEP’s strongest weapon on the court this season. She is first on the team in assists (584) and service aces (24) and second on the squad in digs (290), kills (208), blocks (84) and points (277.0).
TRIPLE DIGIT HEAT
Five Miners have joined the triple-digit dig club so far this season. Senior Sarah Villa paves the way for the UTEP squad with an impressive 514 digs in 2016. Fellow classmate Lindsey Larson follows with a total of 290 digs so far. Three of the UTEP players that have reached triple-digit digs are newcomers (Briana Arellano, Amanda King and Niki Cebak). Arellano totals 197 digs, King has 181 and Cebak tallied 146 total digs.
Sophomore Kylie Baumgartner has been a force at the net all season and leads the squad with a total of 103 blocks (18s/85 a). 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.
AUSTIN; C-USA ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
Rookie Macey Austin has made an immediate impact for the Orange and Blue and was awarded for her efforts by being named to C-USA’s 2016 All-Freshman team. A regular starter for UTEP, Austin has played in 98 sets this season. The outside hitter paces the Miners with 259 total kills with a 2.64 kill per set average.
Austin has also registered 41 digs, 30 blocks, three service aces and an assist. In league matches, the Fort Worth, Texas native, hammered 151 total kills, 24 digs, 15 blocks and a service ace. Austin registered double-digit kills in 14 matches this season, including a season-best 18 kills twice.
LARSON & VILLA; C-USA ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND TEAM
Two members of the UTEP volleyball team received All-Conference honors Wednesday as the league named seniors Sarah Villa and Lindsey Larson to the Second-Team All-C-USA list.
Lindsey Larson is rounding out her time as a Miner in superb fashion as the senior will finish her UTEP career having played in 105 sets this season. Larson serves as team captain along with Villa. The setter is first on the team in assists (584) as well as service aces (24) and second in kills (208), digs (290) and blocks (84). The Humboldt, Saskatchewan, Canada native, reached a double-double 17 times including five triple-doubles in 2016, making her the only one in C-USA to reach a triple-double on the season.
In C-USA matches, Larson is first on the team in assists (304) and second in service aces (12), kills (98), digs (154) and total blocks (40). Larson reached a career-high 13 kills while hitting at a .650 clip versus Samford (9/16) and another career-best in digs (28) against UAB (9/25).
Sarah Villa has proven to be one of UTEP’s most potent defensive weapons as the libero has seen action in 105 sets in 2016. She is first on the team and conference in digs (514) with an average 4.90 digs per set. Villa is third on the team with 94 assists and has registered 14 service aces and seven kills.
The El Paso native, reached 20 or more digs 11 times this season including a season-best 31 digs at Rice (9/23). In C-USA matches, the senior totaled 253 digs, 45 assists, six service aces and three kills.
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.
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.
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 98 sets, Briana Arellano in 93, Niki Cebak has participated in 90 sets and Ali Vidali has played in 44. Junior transfer 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 4.90 digs per set and has a total of 514 digs on the season. Villa is the only one in the league to reach 500 digs this season. Allie Kellerman of Marshall has registered the second-most digs this season with 482 total digs.
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 259 kills while adding 41 digs, 30 blocks, three service aces and an assist on the season. Briana Arellano has also proved to be force on the court with 197 digs, 92 kills, 21 service aces, nine blocks and eight assists.
Ali Vidali follows in suit with totals including, 75 kills, 34 digs, four blocks, four assists and two service aces. Niki Cebak has also made contributions of her own with 146 total digs, 16 service aces and 23 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 (584) and service aces (24). She owns a second-best team ranking in digs (290), kills (208) and total blocks (84).
Sophomore Ashley Grzebeniak is from Winnipeg, Manitoba and provides the Miners with a powerful swing. She has racked up a total of 138 kills, 79 digs, 26 blocks (3s/23a), 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 146 digs and 23 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.
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.