El Paso, TX — The UTEP volleyball team kicks off the 2013 Conference USA season as it returns to the court with two matches this weekend. The Miners will face off against La Tech on Friday at 6 p.m. (MT) in Ruston, La. UTEP will finish the weekend with its second Conference USA match at 12 p.m. against Tulane on Sunday in New Orleans, La.
These matches will also serve as the Conference USA debut of head coach holly Watts, who comes from Florida State where she led her to team to four NCAA tournament appearances.
This past weekend the Orange and Blue went 2-0. The Miners beat South Dakota state in a 3-0 match and Hampton in a 3-1 match.
UTEP was led by seniors Xitlali Herrera and Malia Patterson, and junior Taylor nix.
Herrera led the Orange and Blue with 29 kills with only 11 errors. The middle blocker also contributed 19 digs and12 blocks (2s/10a).
Nix tied Herrera in Kills as she contributed 29 kills with only 3 errors. Patterson set up the Miners’ court action with 83 assists.
UTEP is now 6-5 as it enters conference play this weekend.
The last meeting between the two squads was in 2004 when the Orange and Blue fell to La Tech in a three-set match, as the Lady Techsters held the Miners to a .086 hitting percentage.
At the start of the 2013 season La Tech was picked to finish 14th in Conference USA out of 15 squads. The Lady Techsters are now 6-9 heading into conference play.
Lady Techsters Notables
Leading La Tech’s effort on the court are transfers Rebecca Redgen and Xzache Mathis.
Redgen leads the squad in kills with 178, averaging 3.24 per set, ranking her 12th in Conference USA. The junior has also chipped in 93 digs, 14 blocks, and five assists since the start of the season. also an outside hitter, Mathis is ranked 10th in Conference USA for kills, contributing 166 kills to the Lady Techsters. The junior has also delivered digs, nine blocks and four assists as she ranks 13th for points in Conference USA.
Tulane Scouting Report Series: The Green Wave leads the all time series 12-4. UTEP and Tulane faced off last season, where the Miners defeated the Green Wave in a five set match, 3-2.
UTEP was able to register a .258 hitting percentage, and held Tulane to .253. Xitlali Herrera posted 17 kills, 10 digs, three block assists and hit .333 versus the Green Wave, as Malia Patterson garnered her ninth double- double of the 2012 season with 542 assists and 10 digs.
Tulane boasts the top record in Conference USA, as it is 13-1 heading into league play.
Green Wave Notables
Tulane’s effort has been balanced between seasonal veterans and true freshmen. Leading the Green Wave are Sarah Strasner, Grace Weaver, and Mel Mandelbaum.
Strasner, who is ranked first in conference USA for hitting percentage and ninth in blocks, leads Tulane with 121 kills and only 21 errors. Playing as a true freshman, Strasner has also posted 54 blocks (9s/45a), 10 service aces and 2 assists.
A veteran on the squad, Weaver has secured 249 digs, ranking her third in Conference USA. The junior has also secured 14 service aces since the start of the season to rank 10th in conference.
Rounding out Tulane’s effort on the court is Mandelbaum who has delivered 528 assists to rank third in Conference USA. The senior has also chipped in 23 kills, 15 blocks (1s/15a) and 11 service aces.
The Watts Era
After posting a 6-5 non-conference record with the Miners, holly Watts is ready for her first Conference USA game as UTEP’s new head coach.
Watts, who played for Texas from 1989- 1993, brings 19 years of Division I coaching experience to the Miners, including lengthy stints at Arkansas (1996-2008) and Florida state University (2008-13), where she worked with head coach Chris Poole.
Together Poole and Watts were instrumental in producing thirteen 20-win seasons in 17 years, with 13 NCAA Tournament appearances during that span.
Adding to the Miners’ success this season were seniors Xitlali Herrera, Malia Patterson and Victoria Valencia as they earned a combined total of five all-Tournament Team honors.
Herrera made her way onto the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, UTEP Invitational, and art Carmichael all- Tournament teams. The middle blocker was also selected to the 2013 Conference USA Preseason Volleyball team.
Patterson was selected to the art Carmichael Invitational all-Tournament team as Valencia garnered a spot on the UTEP Invitational all- Tournament Team.
Setting Up For Success
In 2012, senior Malia Patterson totaled 1,177 assists for the Miners, and in UTEP’s non- conference season she has proven that she will continue to dominate the court in 2013.
The senior has registered a total 364 assists in 2013, including a season high of 55 against Oral Roberts (9/6).
This past week, Patterson secured 83 assists in the UTEP/NMSU Invitational. The setter’s stellar performance ranked her seventh in Conference USA for assists (9.33 per set).
Patterson dominated the court in the Miners’ first match against Hampton, where she led the game with 44 assists.
Herrera For the Kill
In 11 preseason matches, Xitlali Herrera has already established herself not only as a leader on the team but also in the league. She ranks among the top players in three conference categories.
The senior hammered out 44 kills this past weekend ranking her fifth in Conference USA in both points and kills per set, averaging 4.00 points per set. The middle blocker has posted 136 kills this season. Herrera has also generated 96 digs and 36 (8s/28a) blocks for the Miners this season. The senior is also ranked fourth in points and 15th in hitting percentage.
The veteran wrapped up the 2012 season ranking in four categories in C-USA: hitting percentage (.301, 6th), points per set (10th), blocks (109, 13th) and kills (333, 13th). The standout led the team in hitting percentage (.300), and rated second on the team in kills (333), digs (290), blocks (101) and aces (20). She helped the Miners rank first in the league and 70th nationally in hitting efficiency (.236).
Victoria Delivers Defense
Veteran Victoria Valencia leads the Miner defense with 150 digs in their first three tournaments. This past weekend the El Paso native delivered 25 assists and six aces.
The senior registered a career-high 22 digs against Oral Roberts (9/6) and chipped in three assists and an ace. Valencia is ranked 11th in Conference USA, averaging 4.03 digs per set.
In 2012, Valencia posted 377 digs in 29 matches for the Miners, ranking her 12th overall in Conference USA.
Standout Xitlali Herrera’s all-around performance has not only garnered her attention in Conference USA, but nationally as well.
The veteran is ranked 31st in the nation in kills. Herrera has posted 136 kills this season, averaging 4.00 per set. The senior is also ranked 29th in the nation in points per match. Herrera averages 4.60 points per set.
Last season, Herrera joined former UTEP outside hitter Michelle Stovall (1983 and 1984) as one of only two Miners in the program’s history to earn a spot on the AVCA All-American honorable Mention team.
The middle blocker also became the second Miner to earn back-to-back all-C-USA First- Team honors and be named to the ACVA all- Midwest Region First Team.
Newcomer Making Stats
In her first season with the Miners, transfer Dayana Acevedo is becoming a player to watch as her attention grabbing performance ranks her among the best in the league.
The junior has secured eight service aces for the Miners, ranking her ninth in Conference USA. The defensive specialist has also delivered 92 digs for the Orange and Blue.
Acevedo was a dominant backcourt player for Iowa Western as she earned multiple honors with the Reivers including: two-time NJCAA Division I All-American first team, two-time AVCa All-American first team, two- time all-Region first team and a two-time academic all-Region first team recipient.
Stepping Up to the Net
Junior Taylor nix and sophomore Talia Jones both add depth to the Orange and Blue as they put up stats for the Miners.
Jones is second on the team in kills as she has registered 109 since the start of the season including 25 kills at the UTEP/NMSU Invitational. The outside hitter ranks 16th in Conference USA as she averages 3.11 kills per set.
The sophomore also excels in service aces as she ranks eighth in Conference USA. Jones has delivered 11 aces, averaging 0.31 aces per set.
Third on the team in kills, Nix has posted 97 this season including her season high 17 against Hampton at the UTEP/NMSU Invitational. The junior’s effort has ranked her 20th in kills for Conference USA, averaging 2.94 per set.
The Miners’ efforts in the 2012 campaign ranked then in the top 70 nationally in two categories: hitting percentage (55th) and blocks per set (68th).
The Conference USA Preseason Poll placed UTEP fifth out of 15 teams. The team concluded the 2012 campaign totaling 1,444 kills, 1,330 assists, 1,518 digs and averaged a hitting percentage of .236.
The 2013 season will be one for the seniors as four veterans return for their final year with the Miners. Jacqueline Cason, Malia Patterson and Victoria Valencia will join All- American Herrera in leading UTEP on the court.
Last year Cason ranked third on the team with 224 kills (2.06 kills per set), while her hitting percentage (.250) ranked 15th in the conference. The senior opened the 2012 season with a 13-kill performance versus Fresno state (8/24). Cason had her best overall performance in a win over Belmont (8/31), as she produced 12 kills (zero errors), with three block assists and a hitting efficiency of .600.
Patterson led the Orange and Blue during the 2012 season in assists with 1,177. The senior ranked 57th nationally and second in the league in assists per set (10.80). Patterson registered 10 double-doubles, including 52 assists and 15 digs in a win over Tulsa (11/4) and tallied a season-high 56 assists during a victory over I-10 rival NM state (9/26).
Valencia led the Miners in digs (377) and service aces (26), as she ranked 12th in the league in both categories. The senior set a season-high of 22 digs versus Arizona State last year.
Veteran Herrera registered 10 double- doubles last season including an impressive 17 kills and 15 digs versus Tulsa (10/12) where she led the squad’s defense and offense. The middle blocker has earned three spots in the UTEP record book for hitting percentage in three sets (.647-4th), hitting percentage in four sets (.556-3rd) and five sets (.542-4th).
In the 2012 campaign Herrera was named C-USA Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week and received C-USA all-academic honors. The senior became the second Miner in program history to earn back-to-back all- C-USA First Team honors and be named to the all- Region Team.