Volleyball Takes On UTEP At C-USA Tourney

Head Coach Kerry Messersmith leads the Blazers against the Miners on Friday

Nov. 15, 2012

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The fourth-seeded UAB volleyball team travels to Tulsa, Okla., to compete in the Conference USA Tournament against No. 5 UTEP. The Blazers and Miners will take the court on Friday at 2 p.m. CT at the Reynolds Center.

The C-USA Tournament, which runs from Friday through Sunday, makes its return for the first time since the 2009 season.  The winner of the league tournament receives an automatic bid the NCAA Tournament.

The Matchup
UAB (19-13, 11-5 C-USA) vs. UTEP (16-12, 10-6)

Last Meeting:  UTEP 3, UAB 0 – Sept. 28 in El Paso, Texas
The Blazers dropped a match to the Miners in El Paso, in straight sets back on Sept. 28.  UTEP hit .291 as a team, with Jeane Horton, Xitlali Herrera and Cassandra Burruel all reached double figures in kills. UAB managed to hit only .150 as a team in the loss.

C-USA Tournament Field

Fri., Nov. 16
G1: (1) Tulsa vs. (8) SMU – 12 p.m. CT
G2: (4) UAB vs. (5) UTEP – 2 p.m. CT

G3: (2) Rice vs. (7) Houston – 5 p.m. CT
G4: (3) UCF vs. (6) Marshall – 7 p.m. CT

Sat., Nov. 17
G1 Winner vs. G2 Winner – 3 p.m. CT
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner – 5 p.m. CT

Sun., Nov. 18
Championship Game – 1 p.m. CT (CBS SN)

How UAB Got Here
Part way through the regular season, UAB found itself with a record of 7-11, including three straight losses to conference opponents. 

After falling to Tulane on the road in five sets on Sept. 30, the Blazers caught fire winning 12 of their final 14 matches, including a nine-match win streak.

UAB features three players winning C-USA postseason awards, including middle blocker Sam Serley, outside hitter Sam Skinner and libero Rachel Fairbanks

Serley was named to the First Team All-C-USA for the second consecutive season and led the league in hitting percentage (.384) and blocks per set (1.41) in both overall games and conference contests only.

Fairbanks was given a nod on the league’s second team, in her first year as the UAB libero.  The junior finished second in the league in digs per set (5.00) and became just the second player in UAB history to eclipse 600 digs in a season. 

A weapon on the outside that emerged in conference play was Birmingham native Sam Skinner. The redshirt freshman averaged 2.68 kills per set for the season en route to wracking up some impressive accolades in her first season as a Blazer. Skinner was named the school’s first-ever C-USA Freshman of the Year, along with earning a spot on both the all-conference second team and all-freshman team.

How UTEP Got Here
UTEP sports one of the top offensive squads in the conference, as the Miners lead the league in hitting percentage (.241) as a team. 

The Miners post two all-conference players on their roster in Jeane Horton (.322) and Xitlali Herrera (.273), who rank in the C-USA top-10 for hitting percentage.

Along with an efficient offense, UTEP ranked second in the league in blocks per set (2.38), trailing only the UAB swat team that blocked 2.57 attacks per set.

UTEP is led by Ken Murphy, who was named C-USA Coach of the Year after improving the Miners from a tie for eighth place in 2011 to fifth place this season.

Records In Reach
Sam Serley and Rachel Fairbanks are closing in some impressive single-season UAB records entering tournament play. 

Serley is just five blocks shy of breaking the total blocks record in a season for the Blazers, trailing Julie Myers who totaled 175 stuffs in 1989.

This season, Serley has already etched her name atop the UAB record book, totaling the most career blocks (550) in the Blazers’ regular season finale at Southern Miss.

Fairbanks, who has collected 615 digs, needs just 17 digs to break Heather Thomas’ school record of 631 digs set last season.