EL PASO, Texas- The UTEP Volleyball team continues non-conference play this weekend as it travels to Macomb, Ill. to compete in the Leatherneck Invitational. The Miners will open the tournament on Friday, matching up against the Saint Louis Billikens at 5 p.m. (MT). UTEP will round out the tourna- ment with a double header on Saturday, as it faces off against the Western Illinois Leathernecks at 12 p.m. and the Eastern Illinois Panthers at 5 p.m.
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UTEP went 0-3 this past weekend, falling to No. 2 Texas, Seattle University and New Mexico in Albuquerque, N.M. Lindsey Larson, who earned a spot on the Lobo Classic All-Tournament team, led the Miners with 77 assists, including a match-best 30 against 2012 national champion Texas. Coline Coessens powered the Miners' offense as she hammered out 28 kills, 15 digs, and four assisted blocks. Junior Talia Jones followed with 21 kills, eight digs, and two assisted blocks. Krystal Ejesieme led the Miners' defense as she posted 11 blocks (2s/9a) in her weekend debut.
Saint Louis Scouting Report
Series: Saint Louis comes into the Leatherneck Invitation with a 4-1 advantage over UTEP. The last meeting between the two squads was in 1999, which was a 3-2 loss for the Miners.
Billiken Notables: The Billikens currently hold a 1-3 record and return a trio of All-Conference performers from last season's team that finished fourth in the Atlantic 10. Reigning A-10 Rookie of the Year Danielle Rygelski returns after notching 420 kills (3.78 per set) and 241 digs (2.17 per set). The outside hitter recorded 11 double-doubles in her first season of collegiate volleyball, the 10th-most for a freshman in the NCAA. Setter Meredith Boe notched 1,116 assists, the second- highest total in the Atlantic 10. Rounding out the threesome is middle blocker Megan Gilbert, who registered a .343 attack percentage.
Western Illinois Scouting Report Series: This will be the first meeting between the Miners and the Leathernecks.
Leatherneck Notables: Western Illinois opened its season with a trio of losses against Ball State (3-0), Northern Colorado (3-1) and Eastern Illinois (3-0). Four seniors pace Western Il- linois this season, Ann Miller, Sam Fournier, Molly Murphy and Mallory Gibson. The quartet has been a presence on the court since their freshmen season, playing in a combined 1,102 sets. Miller led the 2013 squad with 919 kills (3.02 k/s), while also recording 856 digs and 48 aces. Fournier compiled 807 digs (3.24 d/s), 531 digs, and 105 total blocks. Murphy paced the team with 33 service aces (0.39 per set) ranking her second in the Summit League and 35th in the nation. Gibson led the team in blocks per set with 0.70 and registered a career-best 10 blocks against Bradley (8/30/13).
Eastern Illinois Scouting Report Series: This will be the first meeting between the Miners and the Panthers.
Panther Notables: Eastern Illinois opened its season with a 2-1 performance at the Ball State Tournament. The Panthers fell to Northern Colorado, 3-2, but beat out Ball State (3-1) and Western Illinois (3-0) for runner-up at the tournament. EIU returns 10 letterwinners includ- ing four starters. Leading the team's efforts are juniors Marah Bradbury and Chelsea Lee, who earned Preseason All-Ohio Valley Conference honors. Bradbury led the OVC with 1,304 total assists last year, while the Panthers also paced the conference in hitting percentage, kills and assists. The setter recorded 15 additional assist/dig double-doubles last fall and secured six OVC `Setter of the Week' honors. She currently sports the eighth-most assists by a Panther and ranks fifth during the current OVC-era with 2,334 career assists. Teammate Lee had a breakout sophomore campaign as she finished second on the squad with 873 kills for a 3.18 kills-per-set mark and a .265 attack percentage. Those marks helped her rank in the OVC Top 10 for kills and points.
LARSON LOCKS IN ASSISTS Making her debut as UTEP's starting setter, Lindsey Larson is already becoming a Miner to watch. Delivering 77 assists at the Lobo Classic, Larson was the only setter to be named to the Lobo Classic All-Tournament team. She paced the Miners' offense as she contributed a match- high 30 assists against No. 2 Texas, 29 versus Seattle University, and 18 against UNM. The sophomore currently averages 8.56 assists per set, ranking her ninth in Conference USA.
TALLYING TALIA In 2013, Talia Jones led the Miners in aces. As a sophomore she secured 33 aces, including a ca- reer high of four against Texas Southern (9/07/13) in the UTEP Invitational. Tallying 0.31 aces per set, the outside hitter rounded out the season ranking fifth in Conference USA. Her success on the serve garnered her a spot on the 2014 C-USA Preseason All-Tournament team.
KILLER ATTITUDE Only three matches into the 2014 season, newcomer Coline Coessens has emerged as UTEP's offensive leader along the net. The outside hitter tops the team with 28 kills and averages 3.11 kills per set. The Belgium native currently ranks ninth in Conference USA and is one of three freshmen ranking in the league's top 10 in kills. Coessens was previously a statistical leader with Belgium's Barbargirls, where she averaged 14 kills per match.
EJESIEME STANDS STRONG Despite being the shortest newcomer at 5'10, Krystal Ejesieme has become a strong wall along the net for the Miners. In her debut with the Orange and Blue, the middle blocker registered 11 blocks (2s/9a) to become the team leader. Averaging 1.22 blocks per set, she is tied for eighth-best in C-USA and is only one of two freshmen to be ranked in the league. Ejesieme came to UTEP from Garland High School where she was named 2013 District 11-5A Blocker of the Year and 2012 District 11-5A Offensive MVP.
MINERS DIG DEFENSE Only three matches into the season, UTEP already has five players with double-digit dig perfor- mances. Together the Miners have compiled 108 digs, averaging 12.00 per set, an improvement from 2013's opening performance at 11.20. Defensive specialist Dayana Acevedo Rios currently tops the team with 27 digs, followed by fellow defensive specialist Sarah Villa at 19. Following in suit is setter Lindsey Larson with 16, outside hitter Coline Coessens with 15, and Naomi White- hair rounds out the squad with 12 digs.
ROUGH START For the third straight season, UTEP opened the campaign with a 0-3 record. The Miners fell to No. 2 Texas, Seattle and New Mexico to begin 2014. Back in 2012, UTEP fell to Fresno State, Idaho State and Arizona State, while losing to San Diego, No. 1 Texas and No. 11 Hawai'i to commence the 2013 season. But if history repeats itself for a third year, UTEP will notch a victory in its fourth match of the young campaign. The Miners took down Belmont in 2012, Southern during 2013, and will face Saint Louis in their fourth match of 2014.
The 2014 roster adds international flavor with Canadian native Lindsey Larson and Belgium na- tive Coline Coessens. In her high school career Larson led Humboldt Collegiate Institute to the 2010 Provincial 4A Volleyball Championship and a second-place finish in 2009 . The setter was named the 2011 Lumsden Tournament Most Valuable Player and was selected to the 2010 Lums- den Tournament All-Star team. She also participated in the 2011 Kamloops Western Canada Sum- mer Games where the team took bronze. This season the sophomore will be the Miners' starting setter. Last season, Larson saw action for the Miners as an outside hitter. She finished second on the squad in blocks with 51 (3s/48a) and added 126 kills. Coessens played for the Flashing Second National team from 2007-2008. She attended Vlaamse Volleybalbond Topsport from 2008-2009 and led the Barbargirls to a 3-1 win over Vlamertinge Vlamvo with a match-best 14 kills.
STACKING THE EXTERIOR Head Coach Holly Watts's staff worked hard to stack up the frontcourt with the 2014 recuriting class. In one of UTEP's tallest signing classes, the Miners added six freshmen: three middle blockers, two outside hitters, and a setter. The middle blockers are Kylie Baumgartner (6-0), Krys- tal Ejesieme (5-10), and Brooke Packard (6-2). The outside hitters are Coline Coessens (6-0) and Dalainee Perry (6-1). Rounding out the newcomers is setter April Luther (6-1).
FILLING THE VOID After record-breaking years on the court, Xitlali Herrera, Malia Patterson and Victoria Valencia's time with the Miners has come to an end. In their final season in the Orange and Blue, the 2013 seniors led the team in kills, points, assists and digs. Herrera paced the team in kills (465) and in points (546.5). The 2013 Conference USA first-team honoree's efforts ranked her 23rd nationally, and fourth in C-USA in kills. The Juarez, Mexico native tallied 29 double-digit kill performances in her last season with the Miners. She rates fourth all-time in program history with 1,182 kills. Patterson led the squad in assists with a total of 1, 118, ranking her 83rd in the nation and sev- enth in the league. She tallied 40 or more assists in 10 matches, including a season-high 48 assists against Tulsa (11/15/13) while adding 18 digs. Patterson registered seven double-double matches in her final season as a Miner. The setter finished the season with 232 digs, 72 kills, 41 blocks (35/6) and 12 service aces. Valencia was the starting libero for the Miners from 2012- 2013. She registered seven showings of 20 or more dig performances, including a career-high 38 versus Oral Roberts (9/6/13) earning the top spot in the UTEP recordbook. The El Paso native tallied double-digit digs in 49 matches in her career with the Miners. With the loss of the three impactful starters, there is now an opportunity for new Miner legends to emerge.
ROSTER RUNDOWN UTEP's 2014 roster returns two starters, and nine letterwinners while adding six freshmen. With a squad of 15, the Miners have five middle blockers, four outside hitters, four defensive specialists, and two setters.
COACHING STAFF AT FULL WATTS Entering her second season with the Miners, head coach Holly Watts has not only added names to the team's roster but to her staff as well. In February, Watts added Nels Rydberg as an assis- tant coach. Rydberg comes to UTEP with an impressive resume of over 21 years coaching vol- leyball on the collegiate, club and high school levels. During his career, he has coached 13 All- Conference players and two All-Americans (Division II). Julie Allen returns for her fifth year on staff. In 2013, Allen guided setter Malia Patterson to a career-high total of 1,118 sets, ranking her 83rd in the nation and seventh in the league. Patterson tallied 40 or more assists in 10 matches, including a season-high 48 against Tulsa (11/15) while adding 18 digs. Under Allen's direction, Patterson registered seven double-double matches in her final season as a Miner.
HOME OF CHAMPIONS The home of the 1966 NCAA Basketball Champions, Memorial Gym continues to house the UTEP volleyball team since the program's inception in 1974. With capacity at 5,200, Memorial Gym is consistently near the top of the Conference USA standings in attendance making it one of the best venues in the league. In 2013 UTEP ranked fifth out of 15 teams for highest match attendance.