Nov. 21, 2013
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The UAB volleyball team swept Rice, 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-23) in the opening round of the Conference USA Tournament. The Blazers advance to take on Tulane tomorrow at 7 p.m. CT.
“I think we’ve had our share of ups and downs this season,” said head coach Kerry Messersmith. “I think last weekend we started to play better. Our setter is back. She was out for about three to four weeks. We clicked well tonight.”
UAB improved to 21-13 on the season, while Rice fell to 11-19. The Blazers had a trio of players record double-digit kills on the night. Senior Ally Slaughter and freshman Gabby Deshotel each put down a team-high 11 kills. It was a career-high for Deshotel, who hit .500 in the win.
“We had a freshman Gabby Deshotel that went in and just did a phenomenal job for us,” stated Messersmith. “We kind of felt like our outsides were going to have to have a strong game. We know that we get that from our middles most every match. We were going to have a strong match from our outsides and I think they did a great job.”
Junior Kiriana Hirini added 10 kills and led the team with four blocks. Leading the offense for the Blazers was senior Becca Howard. Howard dished out 35 assists to the fleet of hitters and helped lead UAB to a .299 attack percentage overall.
Defensively, five different players recorded five or more digs for UAB. Senior Rachel Fairbanks, 2013 C-USA Libero of the Year, and Slaughter each tallied eight to lead the team.
With the scored tied 9-9 in the first set, UAB went on a 4-0 run to take a 13-9 lead. The Blazers put together another run later in the set to force a Rice timeout up 21-16. UAB held on to the lead to close out the set with a 25-20 win.
In the second set, the teams remained close until the Blazers were able to pull away with a 7-2 run that gave them a 20-15 lead. The Owls battled back, but could not overcome the deficit as UAB went on to win 25-22.
The third set came down to the final points. The Blazers were able to take a 24-20 lead, but Rice would rattle of three points in a row before UAB capped of the set with a block by Hirini and Deshotel to secure the 25-23 win.
UAB will be back in action tomorrow for the second round of the 2013 Conference USA Tournament. The Blazers will take on second-seeded Tulane (26-3, 12-2) at 7 p.m. CT. Messersmith talked about what the team will need to do when it faces the Green Wave tomorrow.
“Our setter did a wonderful job spreading our offense,” Messersmith remarked. “We just have to have a good night. Tulane is a very good team. We’re going to have to pass. Passing kind of broke down a little bit tonight. We’re going to have to pass on point. We’ve got to serve very tough to keep them out of system because they are very good in system.”
For the latest news on Blazer sports, follow the UAB Athletics Twitter account: @UABathletics. For volleyball news, follow @UAB_VB.