Volleyball Hosts UTEP For Weekend Series

Heather Thomas is just 16 digs shy of 2,000 for her career.

Nov. 4, 2011

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB volleyball squad will host Conference USA opponent UTEP for a two-match series this weekend, beginning Saturday at 1 p.m. CT, followed by a Sunday showdown at noon CT.  Both contests will take place at Bartow Arena.

UAB (18-7, 8-5 C-USA) | UTEP (17-9, 7-6 C-USA)

The Blazers are looking to right the ship against the Miners this weekend after dropping a pair of contests on the road a week ago at SMU and Tulsa.  Despite the recent struggles, UAB still ranks third in the league standings, holding the tiebreaker over the Rice Owls.  The 18 total victories are the second most in C-USA, trailing only Tulsa’s 21 wins.

Kills:  Sam Serley, 231
Hitting Percentage:  Sam Serley, .378
Assists:  Alison Woods, 521 | Becca Howard, 434
Service Aces:  Heather Thomas, 23
Digs:  Heather Thomas, 484
Blocks:  Sam Serley, 119

A number of UAB players are showcased in the C-USA league leaders in a variety of statistical categories.  Leading the charge in the back row is libero Heather Thomas, who sports a per set dig average of 5.15, tops in the league.  On the season she corralled 484 digs in 94 total sets.

Teammate Sam Serley ranks second in hitting percentage (.378) and third in blocks per set (1.27), while fellow junior Kirsten Gallagher’s 1.09 blocks per set average ranks seventh in C-USA. 

As a team, the Blazers continue to prove why they are one of the strongest defensive squads in the conference.  UAB tops the league in both opponent hitting percentage (.162) and blocks per set (2.73), while sitting fourth in digs per set, with an average of 16.24.

Senior Heather Thomas is nearing the 2,000-career dig mark.  The Madison, Ala. native needs only 16 digs to reach the milestone and would become just the fifth player in C-USA history to accomplish the feat.  Here is a list of the C-USA career digs leaders:

C-USA All-Time Digs Leaders
1. Jaci Gonzalez, Houston – 2,451
2. Tracey Lam, Rice – 2,168
3. Sidney Stewart*, SMU – 2,088
4. Trish Ladusaw, Cincinnati – 2,074
5. Jenn Miller, Tulane – 1,987
6. Heather Thomas*, UAB – 1,986

Head coach Kerry Messersmith recently earned her 600th career victory and is closing in on another 20-win season.  In her 11th year coaching at the Divison I level, Messersmith needs just two more wins for her 10th season of 20-or-more victories.  Earlier this season, she also secured her 21st winning season in 24 years as a collegiate head coach.

UTEP is coming off a weekend split, which included a 3-0 loss to Rice, before knocking off Houston in five sets.  The Miners’ 7-6 league record is just one game behind the Blazers.  UTEP began the 2011 conference season on fire, claiming victories in five of its first six matches.

Defensively, the Miners sport two of the league’s top players in Xitali Herrera and Stephanie Figueroa.  Herrera, a middle blocker, averages 1.23 blocks per set, while Figueroa, a two-time C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, posts 4.65 digs per set as a libero.

Figueroa has captured the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week award on two occasions this season.

To go along with her offense, Herrera also tops the team in kills per set average (3.21) and hitting percentage. 

Kills:  Xitlali Herrera, 311
Hitting Percentage:  Xitlali Herrera, .337
Assists:  Malia Patterson, 993
Service Aces:  Stephanie Figueroa, 40
Digs:  Stephanie Figueroa, 451
Blocks:  Xitali Herrera, 119