UTEP volleyball opens its slate of preseason exhibitions this weekend with two matches against Texas State in San Marcos, Texas.
The games are scheduled for Friday at 5 p.m. MT and Saturday at 9:00 a.m. MT. Friday’s contest can be streamed with an ESPN+ subscription.
Although classified as scrimmages, coach Ben Wallis said the matches against the reigning Sun Belt Conference Champion Bobcats will have many factors that contribute to a true gameday atmosphere.
“Now we’re in a place where that’s about as real as you can make it,” Wallis said. “It’s going to be under the bright lights, in a big stadium, there’s going to be fans there. There are going to be cameras on you, you’re going to be wearing jerseys, and you’re playing a team that made the NCAA Tournament last year who’s a top-50 program. All those things together make for a big exciting test for our program.”
For Texas State, the contests against UTEP will be counted as preseason matches towards its total win-loss record.
All but one player from the Miners’ starting lineup in 2019 is returning to the roster in 2020. Wallis said the continuity built over last season and this offseason is going to pay dividends this weekend and the coming spring season.
“(We’re) bringing back starters that know how to play and are physically gifted,” Wallis said. “Not only the kids we brought back are a better, more experienced group, but they understand our system now and the complexities of our system. Last year they were just trying to learn like everybody else and also kind of fit in the world of college volleyball.”
Returning starter junior outside hitter Serena Patterson was a team-leader in kills (259) in 2019 and garnered C-USA Offensive Player of the Week plaudits on October 28.
Patterson is on Wallis’ C-USA Player of the Year watch list for her experience in the six-rotation outside hitter position last season.
“I really think that Serena Patterson is going to have a great year,” Wallis said. ‘She looks really athletic, very skilled, and under control in here. … A year later, she’s primed to not only be one of our better players, but one of the better players in the conference.”
Four newcomers will be making the trip to San Marcos: freshman Ava Palm and juniors Ha’ahula Crisostomo, Carissa McGarity and Paulina Pérez Rosas. Wallis said the new faces have added coal onto the Miners’ competitive fire.
“Adding those newcomers to our roster not only makes us more athletic and skilled, but it makes us more competitive,” Wallis said. “That’s what makes us different from last year … It’s an exciting time to be a UTEP volleyball player.”
Wallis is entering his sophomore season as the UTEP volleyball head coach following a 13-15 (6-8) year in 2019.
More familiarity and comfort between his coaching staff and players have helped make Memorial Gym feel more like home for Wallis and primed for a strong second-year at the helm in the spring.
“A year ago, I was still trying to get used to wearing the colors and knowing exactly what kind of coach I wanted to be transitioning from an assistant to a head coach,” Wallis said. “Now, it feels like we know what we’re trying to get accomplished. My staff knows what we’re trying to get accomplished. We understand each other better in the gym and I think that’s a really big key for our players because they don’t feel any discrepancies, and if they do, we sort it out differently and our communication is solid. … A year later, it feels a lot like more home.”