Wallis named UTEP volleyball head coach

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Ben Wallis, who was a part of NM State’s run to 136 victories and three NCAA Tournament berths over the last six years, has been named volleyball head coach at UTEP, Director of Athletics Jim Senter announced on Wednesday.

Wallis, who served as a volunteer assistant coach for the Aggies during the 2005-06 season, returned to NM State as Assistant Coach in July of 2013.  He was elevated to Associate Head Coach in 2016.  With Wallis on the bench the Aggies forged a mark of 136-51 over the last six seasons, including a stellar 76-13 record in Western Athletic Conference play.  NMSU was the WAC Tournament champion in 2013, 2015 and 2018, advancing to the NCAA Tournament each year.

“I want to welcome Ben and his family to our Miner family,” Senter said.  “We had a great applicant pool and he emerged as one of the top candidates.  We talked to a lot of folks in the volleyball world and his name kept coming up as a person who is ready and capable of leading a program.  He is known for his technical expertise, developing players and recruiting.  It’s a bonus that he is already in our region and has roots in the Sun City.  When someone has been mentored by Hall of Fame caliber coaches such as Mike Jordan and Flo Valdez, you have a high comfort level that they have been trained the right way.  We have expectations to compete for and win championships, and I feel strongly that Ben can move our program towards the realization of that vision.”

“Ben is a great addition to the Miner family,” Julie Levesque, UTEP’s Senior Associate Athletic Director and Volleyball sport administrator, said.   “He is an excellent recruiter, trainer and tactician and knows El Paso and the region very well.  He has tremendous passion for volleyball and has a great plan for the program that will enable the Miners to compete for and win championships.” 

The Aggies averaged 22.7 wins with Wallis since 2013, and finished first in the WAC regular season standings on four occasions (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) with runner-up showings in 2014 and 2018.  NM State posted 28 wins in 2015, including an unblemished 14-0 WAC ledger.

Serving as NMSU’s lead scout and defensive coordinator, Wallis played a crucial role in the Aggies ranking first in the WAC in opponent hitting percentage over each of the last six seasons.  NMSU rated second nationally in opponent hitting percentage in 2017 (.139).  Wallis also helped assemble the top recruiting class in NMSU history in 2018.

Wallis coached four AVCA All-Americans – middle blocker Gwen Murphy, middle hitter Kim Oguh, middle blocker Desiree Scott and middle hitter Amber Simpson — while at NM State.  The Aggies had the WAC Player of the Year in 2015 (Murphy) and 2017 (outside hitter Kassandra Tohm), and the WAC Libero of the Year in 2016 and 2017 (Ariadnne Sierra).  Six Aggies earned first team All-WAC honors over the last six years – OH Jordan Abalos (2016), OH Tatyana Battle (2016, 2017 & 2018), MB Megan Hart (2018), Murphy (2013 & 2015), Scott (2013) and Tohm (2017).

While at NMSU worked with legendary head coach Mike Jordan, who has posted 466 wins in 21 seasons with the Aggies.

“UTEP made a great choice,” Jordan said.  “Ben will do a great job there as he has here.  I’m happy for Ben and Leah that they get to stay close to family and he has this opportunity.  He’s a really good coach and an even better friend, so I’m glad he’ll be close by.”

Wallis brings over 11 years of Division I collegiate coaching experience, plus nine more years at the high school and club level, to El Paso.  He has coached and trained six All-Americans and three conference players of the year.

His first stint with NM State was as a volunteer assistant coach during the 2005 season.  He spent two years (2009-11) as the head coach at Cleveland High School in Rio Rancho, N.M., where he built a state championship team from the ground up.  Six players on his 2011 squad went on to play college volleyball.

Wallis served as an assistant coach at New Mexico from 2011-13 prior to returning to Las Cruces.  He coached AVCA All-Americans Hannah Johnson and Chantale Riddle while in Albuquerque, and helped put together a top-25 recruiting class in 2013. 

Wallis also gained experience as a varsity assistant coach at El Paso’s Franklin High School, Rio Rancho High School and as a head coach at Gadsden High School in Anthony, N.M.  He has acted as head trainer and club director for the Diamondback Volleyball Club in Las Cruces since 2013.  The team captured the region title in 2016 and finished 19th at the USAV National Tournament.

“I think it’s the greatest hire UTEP could possibly make,” said El Paso volleyball coaching legend Flo Valdez.  “Ben is enthusiastic, he’s a go getter and he’s passionate about the game.  When he started with me as a freshman coach [at Franklin High School], I knew he was going to go far.  He has been a friend of mine for a long time.  He knows El Paso and he knows high school volleyball in El Paso.  I have no doubt that UTEP is going to go to great heights quickly with Ben.  I am so excited for him, El Paso and for volleyball in general in our community.” 

Wallis and his wife Leah, a former NM State volleyball player, have two sons – Benjamin Kristopher Wallis II and Beau William Wallis.  His wife, the former Leah Nye, was an All-City volleyball player at Eastwood High School in El Paso before continuing her career with the Aggies.

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