2011 UAB Volleyball Wrap Up

Sr. Heather Thomas finished fourth in C-USA history with 2,131 career digs.

Dec. 22, 2011

Photo Gallery

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB volleyball team produced an outstanding season in 2011 under head coach Kerry Messersmith, who concluded her sixth season with the program.  The Blazers witnessed records fall and milestones reached, while finishing second in the Conference USA standings.

Middle blocker Sam Serley earned her second AVCA All-American honorable mention selection in as many years.  Serley becomes just the second player in UAB volleyball history to earn the distinct award multiple times, joining Ivana Bozic (2006, ’08).  Serley also garnered All-Midwest Region honors, while teammate Heather Thomas was named an honorable mention selection.

UAB had two players picked to the all-league squads in Sam Serley (first team) and Heather Thomas (second team), while head coach Kerry Messersmith was named C-USA Co-Coach of the Year with Tulsa’s Steven McRoberts.

Head coach Kerry Messersmith earned her 600th career victory as a collegiate volleyball coach.  The milestone took place on Oct. 23 in a 3-1 win against Rice at Bartow Arena.  In her 24 seasons on the sidelines, Messersmith has now posted a career tally of 605-324 overall and 131-72 in six years with the Blazers.

In her final season with the UAB Blazers, senior libero Heather Thomas put forth a record-setting campaign in which she reached numerous milestones for the Blazers.  The Madison, Ala. native is not only the fifth player in C-USA history to reach 2,000 digs, but she also set the school record (2,131) and single-season record (631) for digs.

During the 2011 campaign, the Blazers tallied a 13-match win streak, the second longest in the league.  During the successful stretch, UAB captured two tournament crowns – Kennesaw State Owls Classic and Creighton Classic – along with winning its first seven league matches.  League champion Tulsa was the only squad to put together a longer win streak (14 games).  It also marked the second-longest streak in program history, trailing only the 2008 squad that won 16 matches in a row.

During the season, the Blazers captured five defensive and one offensive C-USA Player of the Week honors.  Heather Thomas led the team, being picked the league’s top defender on three occasions.  Kiriana Hirini not only won the league defensive honor on Oct. 3, but she also garnered the AVSR Global Player of the Week award.  Hirini was one of just four players in C-USA to earn the honor in 2011.

Offensive POTW
Sam Serley (Oct. 10)

Defensive POTW
Heather Thomas (Sept. 19)
Kirsten Gallagher (Sept. 26)
Kiriana Hirini (Oct. 3)
Heather Thomas (Nov. 7)
Heather Thomas (Nov. 28)

Kiriana Hirini (Nov. 7)

The UAB defense was one of the main elements to the team’s success, finishing tops in the conference in opponent’s overall hitting percentage (.167) and third in league games (.180).  The Blazers recorded 15 matches keeping the opposition’s hitting percentage under .150 and was a perfect 15-0 in those matches.

Lowest Opponent’s Hitting Percentages
.020 East Carolina – Sept. 25
.032 Eastern Kentucky – Sept. 10
.034 UNC Asheville – Aug. 27
.049 Drake – Sept. 17
.072 Southern Miss – Oct. 2

On the season, the Blazers recorded 17 matches with 10-or-more blocks.  In those contests, UAB sported a 15-2 record, including 12 straight wins, when reaching double-digit swats.  Of those 15 victories, 10 came against C-USA opponents, as the Blazers were a perfect 10-0 when reaching 10-plus blocks in league matches.  The Blazers posted the second-best blocks per set average in all matches and C-USA contests (2.74/2.86).

Top Blocking Outings
19.0 at Southern Miss (4 sets) – Oct. 2
18.0 vs. UTEP (4 sets) – Nov. 6
16.0 at UCF (4 sets) – Oct. 7
16.0 vs. McNeese State  (4 sets) – Sept. 16
16.0 vs. Illinois State (5 sets) – Sept. 2

On Nov. 6, true-freshman Ashley Ricks collected 12 block assists in a 3-1 victory against the UTEP Miners at Bartow Arena.  The 12 blocks were the most by a UAB player since Shaniqua Cooper posted 15 blocks at the C-USA tournament in 2006.  The block total tied for the most by an individual in the league this season.  For the season, three different players recorded 10-or-more blocks in a game, led by Sam Serley who accomplished the feat twice.

Individual Top Blocking Performances
12.0 Ashley Ricks vs. UTEP (4 sets) – Nov. 6
10.0 Kiriana Hirini vs. UTEP (4 sets) – Nov. 6
10.0 Sam Serley vs. Eastern Kentucky (4 sets) – Sept. 10
10.0 Sam Serley vs. Illinois State (5 sets) – Sept. 2

UAB utilized a balanced offensive and defensive attack throughout the season, with seven players recording 100 or more kills, six posting 100 or more digs and five tallying 50 or more blocks on the season.

2,809: Career assists for setter Alison Woods, ranking fifth in program history.
2,131: Career digs for Heather Thomas, tops in UAB lore.
1,000:  Exact number of total attacks that Kate Morrell registered in 2011.
605: Career victories for head coach Kerry Messersmith in 24 seasons.
492: Consecutive sets played by Heather Thomas.
379: Career total blocks for Sam Serley, ranking fifth all-time for the Blazers.
323: Total number of team blocks, second in C-USA.
154: Total blocks by Sam Serley in 2011, tied for fourth most at UAB.
131: Career victories for Messersmith at UAB in six seasons.
118: Total number of sets played by UAB, over the course of 32 matches.
86: Total solo blocks as a team, tops in C-USA.
45: Double-doubles recorded by the Blazers.
17: Matches the Blazers recorded 10-or-more blocks in a contest.
13: Match win streak, the second longest in team history.
12: Blocks in one game by Ashley Ricks, tied for the most by a C-USA player in 2011.
6: C-USA Player of the Week honors captured by the Blazers.
5.35:  Digs per set average for Heather Thomas, tops in C-USA.
4:  Players that competed in all 118 sets (Howard, Serley, Thomas, Woods).
4th:  Heather Thomas’ rank for career digs in C-USA history.
1st:  Kiriana Hirini became the first UAB player named AVSR Player of the Week.
.351: Hitting percentage by Sam Serley, third best in C-USA.
.326: Career-hitting percentage for Sam Serley, third best in team history.
.167: Opponent’s hitting percentage against the Blazers, lowest in the league.