Sept. 27, 2013
Final Stats | Final Stats
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The UAB volleyball team (12-5) opened conference play with a five-set win over Southern Miss (9-7) on Friday night in front of a great crowd of 425 in Bartow Arena. The Blazers were solid offensively, with five different players notching double-digit kills.
"Tonight was probably the strongest offensive night we have had this year with five players hitting in double-figures," remarked head coach Kerry Messersmith. "I think our outsides did a nice job tonight so proud of our offensive effort. We were just inconsistent tonight. The two sets we lost we just dug ourselves in a hole early and could never dig our way out."
Sophomore Sam Skinner led all players with 20 kills on the night. It was her fifth-straight match with double-digit kills. Just behind her was junior Sara Rishell with 18 on the night. Fellow junior Bethanie Thomas tallied a career-high 15 kills, junior Kiriana Hirini added 12 and senior Ally Slaughter had 10.
Dishing out assists to the fleet of Blazer hitters was senior Becca Howard, who recorded a career-high 59 helpers in the five-set win. Howard has served up at least 54 assists in the last three matches.
Senior Rachel Fairbanks was stellar defensively, covering the floor for UAB to grab a career-best 32 digs on the night. Joining her with double-digit digs were Thomas (12), Skinner (10) and Slaughter (10). All three had earned double-doubles against the Golden Eagles.
"Defensively our back row defense had a nice night," said Messersmith. "We are just struggling blocking right now. That was what we hung our hat on early in the season, so hopefully with a full week of practice this coming week we can get back on track with that."
UAB got off to a swift start, taking the first set 25-16 over the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss countered with a win in set two, using a 5-0 run in the middle of the set to take the lead and eventually win 25-23.
Coming out of the break, UAB bounced back with a 25-22 win in the third set to take a 2-1 lead. The Blazers had the lead in the fourth set, but Southern Miss kept fighting to tie it up at 10-10. Then a 7-1 run by the Golden Eagles gave them a 17-11 lead and were able to hold on to win 25-22 and force a deciding fifth set.
It was the third time in three matches that UAB has gone to five sets. With the crowd behind them, UAB stormed out to a 9-2 lead and forced Southern Miss to take its second timeout of the set. The Blazers never faltered in the fifth, going on to win 15-8 to take the match.
The Blazers earned Friday night's win on a special night, as it was designated as the Cancer Awareness match to honor all types of cancer. The cause is especially close to UAB's volleyball team after assistant coach Hal Messersmith lost his battle with cancer in July.
"We made the decision a couple of years ago after Hal was diagnosed with colon cancer, we decided we needed to acknowledge all types of cancer," said Messersmith. "I think it is sometimes hurtful to not give recognition to all types of cancer. That is kind of what started us on the general cancer awareness night."
UAB will be back in action on Sunday, Sept. 29 when defending C-USA champion Tulsa comes to Bartow Arena. The match will begin at 12:00 p.m. CT.
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