Miners volleyball to open season in Hawai'i

Miners volleyball to open season in Hawai'i
Thursday, August 29, 2013 - 3:21pm

The UTEP volleyball team will open up the 2013 season by competing at the Cheveron Rainbow Wahine Invitational on Friday, Aug. 30- Sept. 1 in Honolulu Hawaii.

The tournament will also serve as the debut of head coach Holly Watts, who comes from Florida State where she led her to team to four NCAA tournament appearances. The Miners will open up against San Diego on Friday at 9 p.m. MT. The squad will challenge defending national champion Texas on Saturday at 3 p.m. They will wrap up the event against host and preseason ranked No. 11 Hawaii on Sunday at 12 a.m.

UTEP returns three starters and seven letterwinners overall from the 2012 squad (16-13, 10-6 Conference USA). Highlighting the returnees are 2012 All-C-USA performers and seniors Xitlali Herrera and Malia Patterson.

For live stats please visit: http://hawaiiathletics.com

San Diego Scouting Report
San Diego has made 16 NCAA Tournament appearances including two Sweet 16 appearances (2004, 2006). The Toreros finished 2012 with 21-7 record and captured a share of the 2012 WCC Championship. San Diego earned an at-large bid into the 2012 NCAA Tournament where they fell to Michigan State 3-2. The Toreros notched a late-season victory over No. 13 BYU to earn a share of the conference title. San Diego also defeated Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine, Saint Mary’s and Santa Clara – all who earned a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Series: This will be the first meeting between the Miners and Toreros. The two programs will open up against each other at the 2013 Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Honolulu, Hawai’i.

Toreros Notables
Leading the charge for San Diego is Katie Hoekman, who was named first-team All-West Coast Conference. Hoekman’s efforts helped the squad capture the 2012 WCC Championship title and earn an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. The senior led the squad in kills (294) and blocks (123). The middle blocker recorded double-digit kills in 14 matches during 2012. Hoekman finished second in the conference in hitting percentage (.389), which earned her a spot on the 2013 Preseason All-WCC Team. Chloe Ferrari produced a stellar season as she was named to the first-team All-WCC. The senior produced 237 kills, and a hitting efficiency of .367 ranking fifth in conference. She was also third on the team in total blocks (51). Ferrari also earned a spot on the 2013 Preseason All-West Coast Team. Also contributing to the squad is Alaysia Brown. The junior ranked second on the team in kills (280) and blocks (71). Her efforts earned her a spot on the All-WCC Honorable Mention team.

Texas Scouting Report
Series: Texas secured the 2012 NCAA championship title as it beat Oregon 3-0, earning the program’s third national title, since 1988. The defending national champions concluded their fall season 31-4 with 22 home wins. Texas has won all three match ups against UTEP. The last time the squads squared off was in 2002 when the Longhorns beat the Miners 3-0, compiling 36 kills, 35 digs and a hitting percentage of .132.

Longhorn Notables
Leading the Texas reign is outside hitter Haley Eckerman. The junior earned many honors during the 2012 season including Big 12 Player of the Year, Volleyball Magazine National Co-Player of the Year and AVCA All-America First-Team honors. She was also named 2012 COBRA Magazine National Player of the Year after leading the Longhorns to a 29-4 overall record. Eckerman led Texas with 504 kill, 42 aces , 234 digs , 47 blocks and 575.0 points . Also bringing All-American first team honors to the Longhorns is senior Bailey Webster. The outside hitter was named as the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, as she registered a team-high 14 kills while hitting .500 in the national championship match. She concluded the season ranked second on the team with 435 kills while hitting .354 for the season and 89 blocks added.

Hawai’i Scouting Report
Hawai’i comes into the matchup ranked 11th in the country according to the 2013 AVCA coaches preseason poll. Last season the Rainbow Warriors earned a bid to the 2013 NCAA tournament after wrapping up a perfect season in the Big West Conference (18-0) scoring the Rainbow Warriors their 18th straight conference title. Hawaii made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament and was ousted by the Washington Huskies, ending their season 27-3 overall.

Series: The Rainbow Warriors hold a 10-0 edge over the Miners since their last meeting in 2004. The last time the two squads met the crowd witnessed seven lead changes, as the Miners kept up with Hawaii’s pace. The Rainbow Warriors eventually solidified their lead, posting 34 kills, and 44 digs beating the Miners 3-0.

Rainbow Warrior Notables
Hawaii’s success starts with All-American first team honoree, Emily Hartong. The outside hitter, who was named to the 2012 AVCA All-Region team, was recognized on Oct. 30th as the 2012 AVCA National Player of the Week, becoming the first Rainbow Wahine player to receive the award since 2006. Last season, Hartong ranked in the top 10 nationally in kills (4.66 k/s) and points (5.29 p/s) and concluded the season collecting four Big West Player of the Week awards. She finished the 2012 campaign registering 527 kills, 76 blocks, and a hitting percentage of .286. Also receiving All-American Honorable Mention honors for Hawaii last season is setter Mita Uiato. Uiato earned a bid on the All-Big West first team, finishing first in assists (1,180) in the league (10.26).

The Watts Era
A new era of Miner volleyball begins as Holly Watts was named the new head volleyball for UTEP.

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.

Preseason Pick
For a second straight year, the league’s 15 head coaches have selected senior Xitlali Herrera to be a part of the 2013 Conference USA Preseason Volleyball team.

Dominating the 2012 campaign, Herrera registered 10 double-doubles, including an impressive 17 kills and 15 digs against Tulsa (10/12) where she led the squad’s defense and offense.

The Juarez, Mexico, native went on to match her career-high of 20 kills against Arkansas (9/8), recording a hitting percentage of .485. As an all around-competitor, the middle blocker commanded UTEP’s frontcourt starting in all 29 matches last season, and becoming the only C-USA middle blocker who plays all six rotations.

Senior Standouts
The 2013 season will be one for the seniors as four veterans return for their final season with the Miners. Jacqueline Cason, Malia Patterson, and Victoria Valencia will join All-American, Xitlali 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, three block assists, a hitting efficiency of .600 and zero errors.

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.

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 career-high of 22 digs versus Arizona State last year.

Veteran Herrera registered 10 double-doubles last season for UTEP, including an impressive 17 kills and 15 digs versus Tulsa where she led the squad’s defense and offense. The middle blocker has earned three spots in the UTEP recordbook for hitting percentage in three sets (.647-4th), hitting percentage in four sets (.556-3rd) and (.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 concluded the season, as she 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.

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