The UTEP volleyball team engaged in its first practice of the 2019 season on Saturday morning at Memorial Gym.
Head coach Ben Wallis is entering his 12th season coaching Division I collegiate volleyball, and his first leading the Miners. Wallis has seen many first practices, and understands these days come with an extraordinary amount of excitement for the staff and team. However, even he was surprised by the enthusiasm that was brought to the court in the initial practice.
“It was pleasantly surprising,” Wallis said. “I thought everybody was really excited. I think that is natural, but even still some teams in some years you have to get them to be excited the first day, and these guys were ready to roll. They were pumped about being here. They were amped up, and paying attention to detail pretty early. I think they are excited about the year and excited about learning, so that was a really good sign.”
Coach Wallis and staff made it a point on day one to preach the mindset of being relentless, and beating every team they play in the category of effort.
“There is a real need for our team to be the hardest playing, most relentless team in our conference, in order for us to beat some of the teams we are going to play,” Wallis noted. “I think we can out play people just by pure unadulterated effort. We could lead the conference in effort if we wanted to. That is why we started out with some of the effort drills that we did, to set the tone. We are going to play harder than everybody. We will put the people on the floor that will play harder than everybody. It’s a message I wanted to send quickly.”
The Miners are also maintaining a focus on improving their offensive and defensive efficiency. Last year’s squad struggled on both sides of the court, resulting in a five-win season. The first-year head coach understands the need for improvement, and when asked on what the focus is heading into the season he had a short and simple answer: “Scoring.”
“This team was dead last in the conference in offensive efficiency, being able to score,” Wallis emphasized. “They were also second-to-last in defensive efficiency. So they didn’t stop anybody and they didn’t score enough. For us, we really want to raise our offensive efficiency to a place where we can compete with the top teams in our conference. If we do that we will be able to win matches against low-RPI teams that maybe we aren’t expected to right now.”
The Orange and Blue’s first bit of action will come on August 17th at 2 p.m., in Memorial Gym. This will mark the inaugural “Meet the Miners” event, where fans can come watch UTEP in an intrasquad scrimmage. Fans can come interact with the new staff and players, as well as pick up a team poster.
For complete coverage of UTEP Volleyball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPVB (Instagram) and @UTEP_VB (Twitter) or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at UTEPMiners.com.