Ben Wallis has built UTEP volleyball into a perennial contender for postseason tournaments, and the Miners will compete in the NIVC for the second time in three years starting tonight.

UTEP gets the pleasure of hosting the opening rounds as FAU, UT-Arlington, and North Texas come to town. FAU and UTA will open play at 5:30 on Friday, while UTEP-UNT will faceoff at 7:30 p.m. at Memorial Gym. The winner of each game will play each other at 2 p.m. on Saturday at Memorial Gym. 

As former conference mates, UTEP and North Texas know each other very well. UNT holds a 13-12 lead over the Miners in the all-time series, but the Miners have won five of the last seven. North Texas won what was thought to be the final meeting between the two schools for a while last season, 3-2. Each of last year’s games went to five sets, with UTEP winning at home and UNT winning at home. There were some intense matches that were wildly entertaining, which makes tonight’s showdown very exciting.  

Two in-state rivals going at it, the loser goes home.  

North Texas had a very productive season in head coach Kristee Porter’s second year at the helm. They went 17-15 in their first year in the AAC, with wins over Wichita State, Rice, and South Florida, all teams towards the top of that conference. They also defeated Texas Tech at home this season. They are led by former First-Team All-CUSA hitter Treyaunna Rush and former McNeese star Aryn Johnson.  

Meanwhile, the Miners gave WKU all they could handle, taking the Hilltoppers to five sets in the semi-finals of the CUSA tournament. Only 6 teams have won more than 1 set against WKU this season.  

UTEP had its ups and down this season, including three straight loses at the start of CUSA play. But right after that, UTEP strung off 9 wins in 10 games. The ups and downs continued when the Miners shockingly got swept by MTSU, who ended up being one of the best teams in CUSA. UTEP ended up bouncing back and winning 4 straight before the WKU game, ending their season at 21-9.   

UTEP is led by star hitters Torrance Lovesee and Alianza Darley. In the middle, UTEP has Kaya Weaver, Danika Washington, and Sakira LaCour. Both Weaver and Washington average over a block per set. 

 Ben Wallis has a trio of capable setters in Mattie Gantt, Kalia Kohler, and Hade Yetis, so expect him to rotate all three tonight.  

UTEP’s libero all season has been El Paso High graduate Alyssa Sianez, who leads the team with 345 digs. She has had a great season and has really stepped up for the Miners.  

The remarkable job Ben Wallis has done with this program will be on display tonight, as the Miners compete in the postseason for only the second time ever. UTEP’s 2021 NIVC run is one that will go down in the record books, as the Miners made it all the way to semi-finals where they fell to the eventual champions, UNLV. Memorial Gym had over 2,000 fans in each game UTEP hosted that year. 

This UTEP squad has been through it all, from losing two of their best players early in the season, to almost upsetting Western Kentucky.  

Tonight should be a good one in Memorial Gym. 

More From KLAQ El Paso