UETP volleyball season is coming to a close after a historic year. Under second-year Head Coach Ben Wallis, the Miners finished the season 21-7 (.769) overall and 9-4 (.667) in conference play.
The Miners dominated all season long, as they accomplished their first winning season since 2012, making it their best season record since 2005. The Miners were also able to secure its highest seeding since 1984 with a No. 2 spot in the Conference USA after being projected to finish in fourth place in a preseason C-USA poll.
In the beginning of the season the Miners were 6-0, which included two big wins against two Power Five schools, one against PAC-12 affiliate University of Arizona (3-2) and Big 10 affiliate Northwestern University (3-0). To continue that momentum, the Miners beat I-10 rival New Mexico State University in a five-set match (3-2), making it the first win against NMSU since 2012.
Nearing the end of the season the Miners showed no signs of stopping heading towards the Conference USA tournament. UTEP only had one loss, which was against UTSA, but came back to sweep North Texas at home. Another historic moment came when the Miners beat I-10 rival NMSU once again at the end of the regular season. This win marked UTEP’s first 2-0 season sweep against NMSU since 2001 and the first win on NMSU turf since 2004.
“I’m really proud of my group for accomplishing 20 wins,” Wallis said after the win against NMSU.
During the post-season, some Miners accomplished individual honors.
Junior outside hitter/middle blocker Alianza Darley was named to the All-Conference Second Team. Darley led the Miners in blocks (90.0) and was third in kills (206), she registered 254 points while hitting .306. Darley also posted a career-high of seven blocks twice during the season.
Senior outside hitter Serena Patterson was selected for the All-Conference First Team. Patterson led the team in kills (305), fifth in assists (21) and service aces (21) and third in digs (184), along with 344 points while hitting .269; she recorded 17 double-digit kills for UTEP.
Senior outside hitter Paulina Perez Rosas was selected to the Conference USA Volleyball 11-member all-academic team. Perez Rosas ranked second on the team in kills (233) and digs (222) and has a team-best of eight double-doubles on the year.
Freshman outside hitter Ema Uskokovic was voted to the eight-member all-freshman team. Uskokovic recorded 201 kills along with 238 points with a hitting percentage of .277; she recorded seven double-digit kills.
During the regular season, senior setter Kristen Fritsche wrapped up a solid career for the Miners, leading the team in assists (606) and service aces (30) and was fourth in digs with 155.
Sophomore defensive specialist Alyssa Sianez was named the C-USA defensive player of the week after a back-to-back sweep against North Texas. Sianez led the Miners in digs (427), she was third in service aces (23) and fourth in assists (83).
Wallis added additional talent to the 2022-2023 roster after the regular season. UTEP volleyball welcomed setter Mattie Gantt, outside hitter Katherine Neille, and outside hitter Marian Ovalle.
The postseason for the Miners was one to remember. The Miners made a major comeback on Friday, Nov. 19, against Florida International University in the C-USA quarterfinals. UTEP was down 0-2 but came back in the third match and kept that momentum going to win 3-2. Junior middle blocker Yasso Amin recorded three career-highs, 19 kills, 24 points, and nine total blocks, leading the Miners to victory.
After the win against FIU, the Miners met Western Kentucky University on Saturday, Nov. 20 for the C-USA semifinals. UTEP was unable to make a comeback and fell to No. 18 Western Kentucky 0-3. For the offense, junior middle blocker/outside hitter Alianza Darley led the Miners with 11 kills and senior setter Kristen Fritsche had 16 assists. Perez Rosas led the defense with seven digs.
“I’m very proud of what my team put out there this year,” Wallis said in a post-game interview. “I was disappointed we weren’t able to scrap out that third set. We didn’t do enough, efficiency wise. They (WKU) were way better at transition and were very clean. We did, however, construct a better fall 2021 team to be able to compete with them. Luckily for me, I get to continue to coach this team for a couple more weeks which I’m excited about.”
All stats and quotes for UTEP courtesy of UTEP Athletics.
Katrina Villarreal is a contributor and may be reached at [email protected]