EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The UTEP volleyball team opened preseason practices on Tuesday morning at Memorial Gym, tipping off the fifth year of Ben Wallis’ tenure with the Miners.

Coming off the program’s first-ever postseason appearance in 2021, there were lofty expectations for the 2022 Miners that a young squad never fully met.

Wallis will bring back a large group of returning players from the 2022 squad who are now a year older, including outside hitters Sara Pustahija and Torrance Lovesee, as well as veteran middle blocker Alianza Darley.

The Miners also got what Wallis thinks will be an impact transfer in Oral Roberts’ middle blocker, Sakira LaCour.

In a new-look Conference USA, perennial powerhouse Western Kentucky will still be the favorite, though the Hilltoppers lost some talent off the 2022 squad. UTEP thinks that if everything comes together, they can compete with WKU for the league title.

This is the most complete, deep and athletic roster that we’ve ever had. We had a deep and athletic roster last year, but we were really inexperienced when it came to our temperaments,” Wallis said. “If we can control our emotions well, then you could see this team playing in the conference championship and hopefully get a shot at the NCAA Tournament and making some noise.”

UTEP will host Grand Canyon for an exhibition match on Aug. 19 in El Paso, then open the season for real vs. perennial powerhouse Washington at a tournament in Louisiana.