Volleyball Set For C-USA Showdowns With Tulsa, SMU

Head coach Kerry Messersmith goes for her 600th career coaching victory on Friday night.

Oct. 14, 2011

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB volleyball team will play host to a pair of Conference USA foes in Tulsa and SMU this weekend at Bartow Arena.  The Blazers and Golden Hurricane, the top squads in league standings, will take the court on Friday at 7 p.m. CT, while SMU travels to Birmingham on Sunday for a 12 p.m. CT start time. 

UAB (17-2, 7-0 C-USA) | Tulsa (15-5, 6-1) | SMU (7-12, 3-4)

UAB Notebook
The Blazers have continued to play superior defense and add a balanced offense as part of a current 13-match winning streak.  During the impressive stretch of wins, the Green and Gold has captured seven league victories.

On the attacking side of the court, UAB features five players with over 100 kills, led by middle blocker Sam Serley (198).  Switching sides of the court, the Blazers' defense has been one of the tops in the conference, holding opponents to a .141 hitting percentage overall and even more stingy .139 clip in league games.

MESSERSMITH MILESTONE:  Head coach Kerry Messersmith is just one win shy of No. 600 for her collegiate coaching career.  She currently sits at 599-317 in her 24th season overall.  She is in her sixth year at UAB and sports a 125-65 record guiding the Blazers.

BLOCKZILLA:  The outstanding blocking ability of the Blazers this season has been a major reason for their success.  Not only does UAB lead C-USA in blocks per set (2.92), but the team ranks ninth out of all NCAA Division I teams.  Individually, Serley sits second in the conference in blocks per set (1.36), while teammate Kirsten Gallagher's 1.16 average is fifth. In league matches, the UAB has been even more impressive in blocking opponents at a 3.54 rate, with the next closest being Sunday's opponent SMU (2.90).

S.S. ATTACK: Serley has been a standout out at the middle blocker position for UAB on the attacking end in 2011.  She enters Friday night with a .445 hitting clip, the top hitting percentage of all players in Division I volleyball.  In the Blazers last victory, Serley answered when called upon, slamming down six kills on seven attacks in the fifth and deciding stanza to defeat UCF in Orlando, Fla., 3-2.

SERLEY HONORED BY CONFERENCE:  Serley was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after a strong week in the front line for the Blazers.  The Nashville, Tenn. native hit a team and league-best .558 for the week while leading UAB to a pair of victories at UCF.  She averaged 3.67 kills and 1.67 blocks per set and connected for a season-high 20 kills in a thrilling five-set victory last Saturday.  It marked the fourth weekly conference award captured by a UAB volleyball player in 2011, the first on offense.  Teammates Heather Thomas, Kirsten Gallagher and Kiriana Hirini each earned consecutive defensive honors from the league earlier in the year.

THOMAS CLIMBING CHARTS:  Thomas already set the career digs record at UAB earlier this season and is climbing the all-time chart in C-USA history.  Currently, Thomas has totaled 1,873 digs and sits eighth in league lore.  Furthermore, she is averaging a league-best 5.11 digs per set for the season.

The Golden Hurricane attack is one of most potent not only in league play, but the nation.  Outside hitter Tyler Henderson is one of the most prolific attackers, averaging 4.90 kills per set (fifth in NCAA), while the team as a whole ranks sixth in the nation with 14.65 kills per stanza. 

In the back row, libero Jessica Adams has totaled a team-best 345 digs on the year.  Her per set average of 4.79 ranks fourth in the conference.

As a team, Tulsa has only one conference blemish, a loss at home to SMU on Oct. 5.  Earlier in the season, the Golden Hurricane dropped a five-set match to the now No. 1 Illinois as part of the Middle Tennessee Invitational.

The SMU Mustangs enter the weekend winners of three of their last four league matches, including victories at Tulsa along with wins at home versus Houston and Tulane.  SMU's major strength, like the Blazers, is its ability to block opponents' attack attempts, ranking second in the conference in overall matchs with a blocks per set at 2.57.  The reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, Courtney Manning, leads the squad with 1.30 blocks per set, while hitting offensively at a .317 clip.

At the libero position, Sidney Stewart has been a mainstay for the Mustangs during her career.  She is only a few notches ahead of Thomas in C-USA history for career digs with 1,965, which is fifth all-time.  On the season, Sidney is averaging 5.03 digs per set.

On offense, Jessica Oliver and Dana Powell are the two primary threats.  Oliver collects a team-best 3.11 kills per set, while Powell is right behind her at 2.99. 

Tulsa and SMU have both had success against the Blazers in previous meetings.  The Golden Hurricane owns a 7-3 tally over UAB, while the Mustangs are 6-2 in the all-time series.

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