Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball/Twitter
A two-game road trip will commence as the UTEP Volleyball Team travels to Charlotte, N.C. and Hattiesburg, MS to take on Charlotte and Southern Miss in a pair of Conference USA matches this weekend.
The Miners will face the 49ers (2-2 C-USA) on Friday at 4 p.m. (MT) at the Halton Arena and the Golden Eagles (2-1 C-USA) at the Reed Coliseum with first serve slated for 11 a.m. (MT).
The Miners (1-2 C-USA, 4-12 overall) are coming off a five-set heartbreaker to UTSA, who took down the Miners 3-2 at the Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas. The Roadrunners took the first two sets 25-16 and 25-17, respectively, before the Miners responded with a thrilling 26-24 set three victory.
UTEP would stay alive with a 25-17 set four win to force the decisive set, but the Roadrunners paved their way to a 15-8 set five victory to take the match and hand the Miners their second loss in C-USA play. Macey Austin led the UTEP offensive effort with 24 kills, three shy of her career-high 27.
Briana Arellano tallied eight kills of her own while Mallory Yost followed with seven. Arellano also served up three aces to lead the team. Amanda King took the assist load with 34, while Niki Cebak manned the Miner defense with 16 digs while Ashley Grzebeniak added 11.
Maddie Morgan recorded the lone solo block of the match while also teaming up for two block assists and Yost and King both had five block assists.
UTEP will be on the hunt to get above .500 on its conference record, while both the Niners and Golden Eagles already have two conference wins under their belt. Southern Miss will meet with top-ranked WKU on Friday before its Sunday match against the Miners.
CHARLOTTE Scouting Report
Series: Friday’s match will mark the fifth meeting between the Miners and the Niners, with Charlotte holding a 3-1 overall record versus the Miners. The two first met in in 2013, when the 49ers took the 3-1 victory on their home court in Charlotte, N.C. They last met on October 7, 2016, when the Miners swept the 49ers in Memorial Gym. The 49ers have a 15-5 overall record, and are 2-2 in C-USA play.
The 49ers are coming off a 3-1 loss to Florida Atlantic, but saw a strong performance from Janell Sparks, who had a career-high 25 kills versus the Owls on Sunday.
Sparks, who is sixth in conference in kills, leads the team with 237 kills this season (3.70 kill/set). The Niners rank fourth in conference in hitting percentage with a .238 average. Defensively, the 49ers rank third in C-USA in digs with 1,192 (15.68 per set) and have individual conference leader Yumi Garcia and Sydney Rowan leading the way.
Garcia has 407 digs (5.36 digs/set) this season and Rowan has 201 digs (2.68 digs/set). Aside from leading C-USA as a team in blocks with 229.5 (371 b/a, 44 b/s), Charlotte also boasts the league’s block leader in Tatyana Thomas. Thomas has 95 total blocks this season with 19 solo and 76 block assists. Helping the 49ers’ defensive effort at the net is Janelle Curtiss, who has 64 blocks this season (1.10 blocks/set).
SOUTHERN MISS SCOUTING REPORT
Series: Sunday’s match will mark the 18th meeting between the Miners and the Golden Eagles, with Southern Miss holding a 13-4 overall record versus the Miners. The two first met on September 8, 1995 when the Miners swept the Golden Eagles in Memorial Gym. They last met on October 9, 2016, when Southern Miss got the three-set victory over the Miners in Memorial Gym.
The Golden Eagles have a 11-7 overall record, and are 2-1 in C-USA play
GOLDEN EAGLE NOTABLES
Southern Miss offensive will consist of Chandler Marshall who leads the way with 217 kills (3.24 kills/set) this season. The Golden Eagles also have setter Sarah Bell in the mix, who ranks third in conference in assists with 716 total, dishing out 11.19 per set.
Defensively, the golden eagles have Natalie Druhan who has 250 digs (3.73 digs/set) to rank fifth in the league. Kylie Grandy also leads the way offensively closely behind Marshall with 207 kills (3.18 kills/set) and defensively with 151 digs (2.32 digs/set) this season. At the net on defense, Alexis Coombs has tallied 64 total blocks this season, including 13 solo blocks, to rank eighth in Conference USA.
ROADRUNNERS OUTLAST MINERS
The Miners took their first conference road trip when they traveled to San Antonio, Texas to take on UTSA at the Convocation Center. The Roadrunners took the first two sets 25-16 and 25-17, respectively, before the Miners responded with a thrilling 26-24 set three victory.
UTEP would stay alive with a 25-17 set four win to force the decisive set, but the Roadrunners paved their way to a 15-8 set five victory to take the match 3-2, dropping the Miners to 1-2 in C-USA play.
The Miners ended the match with 50 kills, 48 assists, six service aces, 58 digs, 16 block assists and one solo block. The Roadrunners recorded 68 kills, 62 assists, eight service aces, 68 digs and 16 block assists.
MINERS BREAK INTO C-USA RANKINGS
Three Miners broke into Conference USA rankings this week. Macey Austin moved up to No. 9 in the league for kills with 203 total and 3.38 per set. The sophomore was previoulsy ranked 10th before her 24-kill match against the Roadrunners.
Joining the rankings is Kylie Baumgartner, who ranks 10th in conference in blocks with 46 total, including 10 solo blocks. Breaking into the league’s digs list is Niki Cebak at No. 10 with 194 total so far this season.
AUSTIN OFFENSIVE MACHINE
Macey Austin continues to dominate the Miner offensive efforts with 203 kills this season, leading UTEP’s second kill leader, Cheyenne Jones, by 87. Austin recorded her third 20-plus kill match last Sunday when she hammered 24 kills against UTSA, three shy of her career-high total of 27.
Austin is averaging 3.38 kills per set and, with 12 regular season games left in the season, is on pace to surpass her 2016 total of 280 kills on the season. Austin also has 35 digs and 15 total blocks on the year.