UTEP beach volleyball head coach Ben Wallis brought on local and international talent to the 2022-23 roster with outside hitters Paulina Acuna and Krista Paegle.
The 5-8 El Paso, Texas, native reached 1,000+ career kills and digs with a hitting percentage of .361 in 131 sets her senior season.
“We’re excited to be able to recruit more local players like Paulina that we can keep at home on both the indoor and beach side and keep the best local talent playing for the Miners,” Wallis said.
Acuna achieved a multi-season-high final season at Franklin High School – recording 647 kills, 385 digs and 58 service aces that helped lead the Cougars to a District 1-6A championship and a bi-district playoff win in 2021-22.
“Adding Paulina to our inaugural beach program is going to be great for our city to continue to watch her play for the next four to five years,” Wallis said. “Playing at Franklin High School here locally, she put up some crazy good numbers as an indoor player and while she’s fairly new to the beach game, she is going to translate well because she’s got a ton of tools as a volleyball player that you’ll need outdoors to be successful.”
Acuna’s 2021 accolades include: TGCA All-State Team, TGCA Academic All-State, El Paso Times Player of the Year, All-City MVP, and 1-6A All-District MVP.
“She’s played in some really solid clubs and has a ton of experience playing against top level teams, but she’s a super competitor and, once again, you have to have that outdoors to be successful,” Wallis said. “She’s a great defender and scorer, and while she was undersized in the indoor game at the Division-I level she’s got the right moxie and craft to be a point scorer for us in a very tough beach conference.”
The 5-9 Latvia native brings an outstanding beach resume to kick-off the inaugural season. In her 2021 season, Paegle anchored the Latvian U19 Beach Volleyball Tournament title and finished third in the Beach Volleyball National Tour (Latvia). She also placed ninth in the Beach Volleyball World Tour 1* (Ljublana, Slovenia) and was slotted 17th overall in the Beach Volleyball U22 European Championship (Austria, Baden).
“We’re thrilled to be able to recruit and land an international Beach Split like Krista to our inaugural team here in El Paso,” Wallis said. “She has top-level FIVB Beach experience and has already played against good Beach women for her country and that experience will be invaluable for our new program from the first day of practice.”
Paegle 2020 accolades:
2nd – Beach Volleyball National Tour Final (Latvia)
5th – Beach Volleyball Would Tour 1* Tournament (Vilnius, Lithuania)
9th – European U22 Beach Volleyball Championship (Izmir, Turkey)
25th – Beach Volleyball European Championship (Jurmala, Latvia)
“She’s an accomplished outdoor player,” Wallis said. “We’ll be able to match her up with some of our incoming beach players or our crossover kids who will give us a really nice team that will compete for points right away in 2022-23. Latvia has a really accomplished beach federation and she’s already coming to El Paso with some good training with outdoor IQ. Daniel (Foo) and I are very much looking forward to coaching her and sending her back home to compete for her country at a higher level.”