Nov. 6, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- An outstanding defensive effort from the UAB volleyball team blocked the Blazers to a 3-1 (25-20, 18-25, 25-14, 25-21) victory against UTEP on Sunday afternoon at Bartow Arena.
The win was the second in as many days against the Miners, as UAB upped its season record to 20-7, 10-5 in league play. The Blazers have now reached the 20-win plateau in four of the last six years under head coach Kerry Messersmith.
As a team, the Blazers out-blocked UTEP (17-11, 7-8 C-USA), 18.0 to 4.0, while also out-hitting the opponent on the offensive side, .207 to .109.
“It was another great defensive effort by everybody,” Messersmith said. “The back row and the front row both played great. It was a big weekend for us and the girls feel like we are back to where we were before out little skid by beating a very good UTEP team.”
The home squad featured three players with seven-or-more blocks, led by right-side hitter Ashley Ricks. A true freshman, Ricks set a career-high with 12 blocks (all block assists), which also marked the most by a UAB player in a single match since Nov. 18, 2006, when former Blazer Shaniqua Cooper tallied 15 in a win against Tulsa at the Conference USA tournament.
Along with her memorable day on the defensive side of the court, Ricks added six kills, while fellow right-side hitter Michele Simmons roped seven on 15 attacks for a .467 hitting percentage.
Kiriana Hirini was not far behind Ricks, also posting a career-high with 10 total blocks (two solo, eight assists), while also contributing seven digs and three kills at the middle blocker position. Fellow middle, Sam Serley, stonewalled the Miners’ attack with seven blocks (one solo, six assists) of her own.
“Kiri and Ashley both did an outstanding job for us,” Messersmith said. “Ashley being able to block 12 balls as a right-side hitter is phenomenal.”
Behind the outstanding blocking effort from the Blazers’ front line, was libero Heather Thomas guiding the back row. The senior recorded her second 28-dig effort in as many days, marking the fourth time this season she has tallied that total. For the weekend, the Madison, Ala. native averaged an impressive eight digs per set.
“Heather was tremendous for us this entire weekend, not only defensively, but her passing to our setters really helped set up the offense,” Messersmith said.
The balanced Blazers’ attack also featured three double-doubles as Kate Morrell, Thais Soares and Becca Howard helped fill out the UAB box score. Morrell recorded a team-high 15 kills with 11 digs, Soares rocketed 11 kills and posted 10 digs, while Howard dished out 18 assists and added an 11-dig effort of her own.
After the Blazers captured the first set, by holding the Miners’ attackers to a .000 hitting clip, UTEP rebounded and evened the match heading into intermission.
The brief time away from the court proved dividends as the Blazers came out and completely controlled the match the rest of its entirety. In the third stanza alone, UAB tallied eight blocks with Hirni (two solo, four assists) and Ricks (five assists) leading the swat team. The Blazers’ defense held UTEP to a negative attacking clip (-.075) and would cruise the rest of the match to win in four sets.
NEXT UP: The Blazers host two more home matches next weekend with Southern Miss and Tulane coming to Bartow Arena. UAB will play the Golden Eagles on Friday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. CT, before taking on the Green Wave on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT.