UTEP volleyball looks to continue home dominance
El Paso, TX — The UTEP Volleyball team will host the UAB Blazers at 7 p.m. (MT) Friday. The Miners will then wrap up their four-match homestand against UTSA on Sunday at 12 p.m.
UTEP (12-7, 5-2 C-USA) set off a week of home matches with back-to-back wins as the Orange and Blue beat Rice, 3-0 on Sunday and Grand Canyon University, 3-0 on Wednesday.
Xitlali Herrera led the Miners as she garnered her first Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week honor this season. Herrera dominated for UTEP against Rice as she secured 12 kills with only one error, eight digs, and two block assists. Malia Patterson aided the Miner offense as she delivered five kills with zero errors and 31 assists. Libero Victoria Valencia rounded out UTEP’s defense with a match high 14 digs.
The Miners carried their momentum into their match against Grand Canyon University as Herrera hammered a match high 16 kills, garnering her a .556 hitting percentage. Patterson posted a match high 35 assists while Valencia delivered 17 digs.
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UAB Scouting Report
Series: The match will be the 12th meeting between UAB and UTEP. The Blazers hold a 9-2 lead in the series. The two teams last met Nov. 16, 2012 in the C-USA tournament, where the Blazers came out with a 3-0 sweep. UAB is currently seventh in C-USA standings.
Individually, UAB has a player ranked in the top 50 nationally in four different categories. Becca Howard leads the conference in assists per set (11.53), which puts her ranked at No. 13 nationally. Rachel Fairbanks leads Conference USA in number of digs per set (5.02) and ranks 27th nationally. Sam Skinner ranks 26th in both kills per set (4.23) and points per set (4.77). She is second and third, respectively in conference rankings.
Sara Rishell has led UAB in blocks per set (1.21) and ranks second in the conference. She also ranks ninth in hitting percentage (.334) and 13th in points per set (3.86). Kiriana Hirini ranks fourth in the conference in hitting percentage (.370), fifth in blocks per set (1.11) and 11th in points per set (3.89).
UTSA Scouting Report
Series: The Miners lead the series 21-10 against UTSA. Last season, Xitlali Herrera recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 10 kills and 12 digs. Victoria Valencia posted her second 20 or more dig performance with 20. Setter Malia Patterson compiled a match-best 34 assists.
UTSA comes into the match ranking second in Conference USA with a 15-7 overall record, including 7-1 in the league. Preseason C-USA Player of the Year McKenzie Adams leads the Roadrunners’ efforts on the court. The outside hitter garnered her 16th double-double in UTSA’s game against North Texas (10/20) as she hammered 15 kills and posted 15 digs.
The Watts Era
Holly Watts is currently 5-2 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 fifth place with a 5-2-league record. UTEP is currently ranked third in service aces (1.25), fifth in hitting percentage (.228) and kills (13.56), seventh in assists (12.50), 10th in blocks (121.5) and digs (14.48). The squad has compiled an impressive 868 kills, 800 assists, 120.5 blocks (39s/165a) and 80 aces.
Nationally, UTEP is ranked 73rd in kills per set with Herrera leading the pack with 274kills.