Andres Acosta | El Paso Herald-Post
UTEP Volleyball Head Coach Ben Wallis announced the Miners’ 2019 schedule on Tuesday. This is the first season of the Wallis era at UTEP.
“I think this schedule has a good balance of tough top 100-150 opponents and we’re really pushing our players to set goals to not only beat a few of them, but consistently compete at a high enough level that we give ourselves a chance to win on a nightly basis,” Wallis said. “Rivalry games are important, exciting, and for bragging rights and those are matches that will be highlighted on the schedule. I’m really excited to play New Mexico and NM State because they’re good volleyball teams and we’ll learn a lot about ourselves right away against quality opponents. Each season my goal is to make our non-conference schedule tougher and tougher to where we are ultimately competing against top-50 teams every season.”
The 2019 schedule is highlighted by nine matches against 2018 top-100 RPI opponents (Rice – 30, NM State – 49, Tulane – 61, WKU – 62, Texas Tech – 71, Florida Atlantic – 75, UTSA – 76) The Miners will take on Rice and UTSA twice each during conference play. Rice represented Conference USA in the NCAA Tournament last season. UTEP will participate in four tournaments before conference play begins.
The Miners will begin the 2019 campaign in an exhibition game versus New Mexico at home on Aug. 24.
“I’m really excited that Jon (Newman-Gonchar) and I could work out something to renew the rivalry to start the year, even if it is an exhibition,” Wallis said. “We both want to get New Mexico versus UTEP back on the schedule every year, just like NM State.”
The next weekend, UTEP will serve up its first regular season action by traveling to Lafayette, La., to take part in the I-10 Challenge. The squad will open the tournament versus Incarnate Word (Aug. 30), and later that day will play against host school Louisiana. On the next and final day of the tournament, the Miners will face Tulane, capping off their trip to the Pelican State.
The Orange and Blue will see its first official home action of the Wallis era when it co-hosts the Borderland Invitational Sept. 6-8. The Miners will match up against Coppin State on Sept. 6, and later that day UTEP will battle Texas A&M-Corpus Christi under the lights of historic Memorial Gym. On Sept. 7 the Miners will take on Pacific in Las Cruces, N.M., and will conclude the Borderland Invitational against rival NM State on Sept. 8.
“I’m looking forward to the I-10 Rivalry with NMSU as we’ll be going up against my former group,” Wallis said. “That will be exciting for my staff and I. That’s going to be tough and test our group to see if we’re competing at a high enough level.”
UTEP will make a trip into the Pacific Northwest Sept. 13-14 as it heads to Montana for the Montana Invitational Tournament. The Miners will play two games on the first day of the invitational, beginning with Cal State Bakersfield. They’ll wrap up day one against Montana State, and finish the road trip against the home team Montana on Sept. 14.
“We’ll open that tournament against Cal State Bakersfield which was one of our toughest opponents and rivals during my time at NMSU coaching in the WAC,” Wallis said. “Their coaching staff is always very well prepared, and gets their kids to play extremely hard.”
The final tournament for Wallis and the Miners will be the Red Raider Classic in Lubbock, Texas (Sept 20-21). A rematch versus Incarnate Word will open up play for UTEP. The first day of action in Lubbock will also feature a date with the Houston Cougars. Texas Tech is next on the docket and will be the final match for the Miners before Conference USA play begins.
C-USA matches will be played on Fridays and Sundays. There will be one exception, as the final week of conference action will feature matches on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
C-USA action will begin with the Orange and Blue traveling to 2018 conference champion Rice on Sept. 27. UTEP will stay in-state as it heads to San Antonio to take on UTSA on Sunday.
The Miners will enjoy an early bye on Friday Oct. 4, as they prepare for UTSA to come to town. This home match will be played in the Don Haskins Center. UTEP Volleyball has not played a match in the Don Haskins Center since it hosted the Borderland Invitational in the 2015 season.
“I’m extremely excited to play our first home conference match in ‘the Don’ and I’m going to be working hard with my staff, our marketing department and our city in order to pack that place full of crazy, loud Miner fans,” Wallis said.
The Miners will host UAB on Oct.11 and LA Tech on Oct. 13.
UTEP will go from the Sun City to the Sunshine State as it takes flight to Florida. On Oct. 18, the Miners will battle FIU. Then on Oct. 20, Florida Atlantic is on the docket.
There will be only one match during the weekend of Oct. 25. That Friday UTEP will square off against Marshall at Memorial Gym.
A road trip is in store for the Miners as they travel to play WKU Nov. 1, and Southern Miss on Nov. 3.
Nov. 8 will see Middle Tennessee come to town, with North Texas following suit on Nov. 10.
The Miners will wrap up their road slate at Charlotte on Nov. 14. UTEP will put the finishing touches on the regular season at home against Rice on Nov. 16.
Rice will host this year’s C-USA Tournament Nov. 22-24.