The UTEP volleyball team will set off a four game home stand this weekend as the Miners take on Rice at 12 p.m. (MT) on Sunday. UTEP will then step outside of conference play as they take on the Grand Canyon Antelopes at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
UTEP (10-7, 4-2 C-USA) split the weekend action as they ran past Middle Tennessee, 3-1 and fell short against Southern Miss, 3-0 this past weekend. The Miners effort on the court currently ranks the squad fourth in Conference USA.
Xitlali Herrera lead the Orange and Blue against Middle Tennessee as she hammered out 19 kills, and registered a .485 hitting percentage. Setter Malia Patterson secured UTEP’s offense with 32 of the team’s 42 assists.
Herrera continued to dominate for UTEP against Southern Miss as she posted a match high of 17 kills and delivered seven digs for the Miners. Malia Patterson aided the offense as she secured 32 assists.
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Rice Scouting Report
Series: The Owls come into the weekend with a 27-8 record against the Miners. Last season, UTEP fell short to Rice, 3-2. Seniors Xitlali Herrera and Malia Patterson recorded double-double performances in the showdown against the Owls. Herrera pounded 13 kills, 19 digs, five blocks (1s/4a) and three service aces as she led the Miners’ defense. Patterson tallied 52 assists, 11 digs, and two block assists. The Miners out hit the Owls 67-62, but it wasn’t enough as the Owls registered a .210 hitting efficiency.
Leading Rice’s effort on the court is Sara Blasier. This past weekend the setter garnered Conference USA Setter of the Week honors as she directed the Rice offense with an average of 12.57 assists per set and 88 helpers for the week. Offensively, she posted 11 kills with zero errors on 17 attacks for a .647 hitting percentage. The redshirt freshman notched four kills on six attacks with three blocks and 53 assists in Rice’s four-set win against Marshall (10/11). She also led the team to a season-high .450 hitting percentage against the Thundering Herd. Blasier added 35 assists and two blocks at the net in the sweep over Charlotte (10/13).
Grand Canyon Scouting Report
Series: The Miners hold a 3-2 advantage over the Antelopes. The last time the sqauds squared off against one another was in 1989.
Grand Canyon is led by senior Kaitlynn Ausmus, who has posted 195 kills earning her a 2.83 attack percentage. Ausmus collected a career-high 23 kills and 22 digs in GCU’s five-set WAC opener against Kansas City (9/26). She was selected to the Big Green Invitational All-Tournament team and the Wolf Pack Invitational All-Tournament team.
The Watts Era
Holly Watts is currently 4-2 in league play as UTEP’s 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.
Miners in the Rankings
The Conference USA Preseason Poll placed UTEP fifth out of 15 teams.
Six games into conference play, the Miners are currently in sixth place with a 4-2-league record. UTEP is currently ranked sixth in hitting percentage (.223) and kills (13.41), eighth in assists (12.38), 10th in blocks (112.5) and service aces (1.16) and 11th in digs (14.40). The squad has compiled an impressive 809 kills, 748 assists, 114.5 blocks (35s/159a) and 69 aces.
Nationally, UTEP is ranked 82nd in kills per set with Herrera leading the pack with 247kills.