EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The college volleyball season is officially underway as UTEP head coach Ben Wallis and his Miners team took the floor for their first practice on Monday. UTEP beginning practices roughly three weeks ahead of their season opener.
The Miners are coming off a strange, yet historic season. For starters, Division I volleyball took place in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UTEP finished their season with a winning record (10-7, 8-4 in Conference USA) for the first time since 2012. They also finished as the No. 2 seed in the Conference USA West Division standings, the highest seed in a conference tournament for the Miners since 1984.
UTEP returns nearly every starter from last year’s roster and Wallis, who is entering his third season as the head coach, has his team believing that conference championships and NCAA Tournaments are within reach.
“I think the third place team in Conference USA could — this year or next — be a third bid to the NCAA Tournament based on RPI,” said Wallis. “That’s why we setup our schedule this year the way we did in the fall. We have some really tough opponents that we want to knock off in the fall before conference play, so it gives us a chance to be selected.”
The Miners will host two Power 5 programs in the Borderland Invitational in September to begin their season. They will open the tournament by playing Arizona out of the Pac-12 in Las Cruces at the Pan American Center, followed by a home match against Northwestern out of the Big Ten Conference.
“When we play the best teams in the conference, we practice those things for a reason,” said senior outside hitter Serena Patterson. “I really look forward to playing those teams this year and beating them.”
UTEP will open the season at home on Friday, Aug. 27 against UC Irvine. Conference play begins Oct. 2 at Rice, who finished last season ranked No. 24 in the RPI.