UAB Downs Rice 3-1 For Messersmith's 600th Victory

Kate Morrell posted her 11th double-double of the season.

Oct. 23, 2011

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- Head coach Kerry Messersmith earned her 600th career coaching victory as the UAB volleyball team defeated Rice, 3-1 (27-29, 25-22, 25-23, 25-21) in a tightly contested match on Sunday afternoon in Conference USA play at Bartow Arena.  All in total, the match featured 39 ties and 13 lead changes as UAB improved to 18-5 overall and 8-3 in league play.

In the milestone win for Messersmith, she upped her career coaching record to 600-320 in 24 seasons as a head coach.  Over the past six years she has compiled a 126-68 record guiding the Green and Gold.

“The only thing that winning 600 games means that you’re old and you have been coaching games for a long time,” Messersmith said. “I’ve been surrounded not only by great kids, but great assistant coaches, that have allowed us to be successful.”

UAB featured four players that recorded double-doubles in Kate Morrell, Ally Slaughter, Alison Woods and Becca Howard. Morrell’s team-high 16 kills and 13 digs marked her team-best 11th double-double of the season. 

Slaughter posted her sixth double-double, 11 kills and 15 digs, while setters Woods (31 assists, 11 digs) and Howard (22 assists, 11 digs) tallied their 10th and fifth of the year, respectively.

“Our setters did a fantastic job with their set distribution, which has been lacking over the last three matches,” Messersmith said.  "We run a 6-2 and we have three hitters in the front and we have to use all three hitters consistently.”

A balanced offense was a key aspect to the Blazers success on Sunday as Woods and Howard distributed the ball to four players who tallied double-digit kill performances.  Behind Morrell’s 16 kills, Ashley Ricks and Slaughter each rocketed 11 put aways, while Sam Serley added 10.

Ricks was extremely efficient on the offensive attack, as she recorded a .476 (11K-1E-21TA) hitting clip for the match against the Owls.  For the weekend, Ricks hit .514 with 20 kills on 35 attacks with only two errors.

Libero Heather Thomas was all over the court on the defensive side of the ball, posting a team-high 22 digs as she inches closer to the 2,000 career-dig plateau.  After the two matches during the weekend, Thomas has now corralled 1,937 digs as a Blazer.

The first set of the match would need extra points, as Rice claimed the stanza, 29-27, behind eight kills from Nancy Cole, who finished with a match-high 20 for the Owls.

UAB was able to bounce back in the second frame, behind the swing of Serley.  The set, which featured 15 ties and five lead changes, saw Serley come alive on the attack smoking seven kills on 11 attacks with only error.  Michele Simmons evened the match at 1-1 when she slammed home a kill to take the set, 25-22

“I think bouncing back is something that we’ve been able to do this season,” Messersmith said.  “We played a game at Southern Miss where they came out and beat the tar out of us first game, and we came back and won three in a row and the same thing happened the first day we were at UCF.  I think our kids have shown this year that they are resilient and have the ability to come back against anyone.”

Morrell and Kirsten Gallagher led the offense in the third set, as the duo combined for 11 kills on 17 swings without making a miscue.  Simmons, for the second consecutive set, ended the stanza will kill as the Blazers won 25-23.

Rice (12-10, 7-4 C-USA) struggled with its offensive attack in the fourth stanza, which proved to be beneficial for the Blazers.  The Owls hit at just a .061 clip for the set and UAB utilized an 11-5 run midway through the frame to eventually take the set and the match.

The Owls received a match-high 23 digs from Megan White, while setter Megan Murphy just missed a double-double with 43 helpers and nine digs on the afternoon.

The Blazers are back on the road next weekend with a trip to Dallas, Texas to play the SMU Mustangs on Friday night with first serve at 7 p.m. CT.  UAB will then head north to play the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.