DALLAS – UTEP’s Serena Patterson and Alianza Darley were selected to Conference USA’s Preseason Team, it was announced Thursday afternoon. In addition to the All-Preseason picks, the Miners were predicted to finish third in the 11-member league.
“It is an exciting time for our program to have high expectations set before us,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “The standard when we show up in July every year now is that we are going to compete for, and win championships here. So that’s cool that our peers and coaches in the conference have seen what we are doing and where we are going with our program, and now it’s up to this 2022 team to rise to the occasion and continue to play really good volleyball.”
The Miners are coming off another historic season in Wallis’s third year as head coach. The Miners went 24-8 in the 2021 season, marking one of the best efforts thus far in program history. UTEP secured the No. 45 spot on the rating percentage index (RPI) and finished in the top 50 in nine categories in the NCAA while setting historic program numbers. The team finished No. 16 in the country in offense and was the last standing Conference USA team in postseason play.
“I love the expectation that we are picked to finish high,” Wallis said. “The two teams in front of us are teams that we are chasing every year because they set the standard in the conference every year to win at a high level and compete for and/or win that championship every year. So, we are still chasing them, those are the two teams in the conference that we have not been able to overtake yet. We have our sights firmly set on them, but really, we have our sights firmly set on everybody in the conference because I think everybody is going to be good and there’s a lot of new faces in the conference from transfers and new coaching staffs.”
“Serena (Patterson) and Ali (Darley) deserve every award and preseason recognition that they’re getting,” Wallis said. “Over the last couple of years, they’ve shown that they’re extremely talented and hardworking veterans that are going to put up points. I’m proud of those two being recognized by our conference once again. It’s a big accomplishment to have a couple of players on this UTEP team in the preseason conference recognition.
“A couple years ago there wasn’t even a sniff for UTEP in any of those teams so that’s really cool for them, and I know that our team is excited to help elevate their games and their opportunities to get postseason awards too,” Wallis said. “We always say the more postseason awards that we’re awarded individually means we’re pretty good as a team.”
Patterson 2021 Accolades
- NIVC All-Tournament Team
- AVCA Southwest All-Region Team Honorable Mention
- All-Conference First Team
- Islanders Classic All-Tournament Team
- Preseason Team
Patterson was the first Miner to earn postseason tournament honors and became the second Miner in program history to earn AVCA All-Region honors. She paced UTEP in kills (367), total attempts (977) and points (427) and ranked second in service aces (35).
“Serena went from being an unknown name in this conference to second team to first team to potentially having an opportunity this year to be conference player of the year if she continues to do what she’s done in the past which is showing great promise and show-production,” Wallis said.
Darley 2021 Accolades
- All-Conference Second Team
- Bengal Invitational All-Tournament Team
Darley led the team in assisted blocks (93), ranked second in total blocks (101) and third in kills (260).
“Ali could be the best athlete on our team because not only is she an athlete that can play volleyball now, but she is actually a skilled volleyball player to go along with that crazy athleticism,” Wallis said.
C-USA teams will compete in a single division this season with the top eight teams qualifying for the 2022 C-USA Volleyball Championship. WKU will host the single-elimination tournament November 18-20 in Bowling Green, Ky.
2022 Conference USA Preseason Team
Emani’ Foster, Charlotte, Jr., OH
Amani McArthur, Charlotte, Sr., MB
Marley Banton, Middle Tennessee, Sr., DS
Anota Adekunle, Rice, 5Sr., MB
Ellie Bichelmeyer, Rice, Sr., OH
Carly Graham, Rice, 5Sr., S
Fernanda Maida, UAB, Sr., OH/RS
Alianza Darley, UTEP, Sr., OH/MB
Serena Patterson, UTEP, Gr., OH
Paige Briggs, WKU, Sr., OH
Katie Isenbarger, WKU, 5Sr., MH
Lauren Matthews, WKU, 5Sr., MH
2022 C-USA Preseason Player of the Year
Lauren Matthews, WKU, Gr., MH
C-USA 2022 Preseason Poll
1. WKU (9)
2. Rice (2)
5. North Texas
8. Middle Tennessee
10. Florida Atlantic
11. Louisiana Tech
(First-place votes in parentheses)