Volleyball Puts Away Panthers In Home Opener, 3-1

MB Kiriana Hirini posted eight kills and seven blocks in the Blazer victory

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB volleyball team swatted 16 blocks to control the net and down the Georgia State Panthers, 3-1 (25-14, 22-25, 25-13, 25-17) on Tuesday night in the home opener at Bartow Arena.

UAB (4-4) produced five players with multiple blocks, as the Blazers were one rejection shy of tying their season-high.  Middle blockers Sam Serley and Kiriana Hirini paced the Green and Gold with eight (two solo/six assists) and seven (three solo/four assists) blocks, respectively.

“Our goal coming into tonight was to get our offense going and we wanted to own the net and I think the kids did a great job of that,” head coach Kerry Messersmith said. 

Messersmith also pointed out the impressive play of setters Alison Woods and Becca Howard, who combined for 44 assists running the Blazer offense.

“I think our setters did a really nice job distributing the ball, probably the best they have done this season,” Messersmith said.  “To have both Alison (Woods) and Becca (Howard) end up with 22 assists each is great to see.”

The offensive play for the Blazers was an up-and-down affair all night.  UAB opened the match, nearly unstoppable, hitting .485 for the frame, connecting for 17 kills on 33 swings with only one miscue as a team. The Green and Gold won the first set, 25-14.

However, just one frame later, that offensive onslaught changed course as the Blazers managed to hit just .089 (12-8-45) as GSU (1-6) evened the match by winning the second set, 25-22.

In the third frame, UAB’s strong attack returned to form, hitting .419 (16-3-31) to take a 2-1 lead in the match. The Blazers would hold off the Panthers in the fourth frame, 25-17, to capture a win in their first home match of the season.

“Our inability to remain focused throughout a match is something we definitely have to get better at or we are in trouble,” Messersmith said.  “We played two fantastic sets, better than we’ve played all year, and then two terrible sets.”

In total, UAB used a balanced attack on offense with seven players posting five or more kills in the victory.  Serley and Sam Skinner led the Blazers with nine kills each, while Hirini and Kate Morrell chipped in with eight kills apiece.

On defense, behind the team’s dominance in the front row, was the play of libero Rachel Fairbanks, who quietly corralled 18 digs to top the Blazers on the evening.

Messersmith was not only pleased with the victory, but also how the team has continued to improve from week to week.

“The first week we struggled and this past weekend we built a little more confidence as a team,” Messersmith said.  “We talked about how we needed this win tonight to kick us into the weekend, so now we need to put this behind us and we have a tough, tough weekend ahead.”

The Blazers travel to Columbia, S.C., to compete in the Carolina Clash hosted by the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Tournament action begins Friday against Winthrop at 3:30 p.m. CT.