It was a tough year for UTEP volleyball. Between a 5-21 (2-12 C-USA) season and the firing of head coach Holly Watts, there was little to be optimistic about.

That quickly changed this afternoon when Athletic Director Jim Senter announced the hiring of head coach Ben Wallis, who was the assistant coach of NMSU and helped the Aggies reach the NCAA Tournament three times over the last six years.

“I want to welcome Ben and his family to our Miner family,” Senter said. “We had a great applicant pool and he emerged as one of the top candidates. We talked to a lot of folks in the volleyball world and his name kept coming up as a person who is ready and capable of leading a program. He is known for his technical expertise, developing players and recruiting.  It’s a bonus that he is already in our region and has roots in the Sun City. When someone has been mentored by Hall of Fame caliber coaches such as Mike Jordan and Flo Valdez, you have a high comfort level that they have been trained the right way. We have expectations to compete for and win championships, and I feel strongly that Ben can move our program towards the realization of that vision.”

Wallis was an assistant coach for NMSU in 2013 and was promoted to associate head coach in 2016. Under Wallis, the Aggies went 136-51 over the last six seasons and 76-13 in Western Athletic Conference games. They were WAC Tournament champions in 2013, 2015 and 2018, where they advanced to the NCAA Tournament each year.

NMSU averaged 22.7 wins since 2013, while the Miners' best season as of late came in 2013 where UTEP finished 14-16 overall.  Since then, the Miners have not won over 10 games in five seasons.

Wallis enters the program after serving as NMSU's lead scout and defensive coordinator. The Aggies had the top recruiting class in program history in 2018. NMSU legendary head coach Mike Jordan, who has 466 wins in 21 seasons with the Aggies, spoke highly of Wallis and UTEP's decision to hire him.

“UTEP made a great choice,” Jordan said. “Ben will do a great job there as he has here. I’m happy for Ben and Leah that they get to stay close to family and he has this opportunity. He’s a really good coach and an even better friend, so I’m glad he’ll be close by.”

Wallis has 11 years of experience coaching Division I volleyball and nine more years at the high school and club level in El Paso. His time in the Sun City included being an assistant coach at Franklin High School and a head coach at Gadsden High School.

“I think it’s the greatest hire UTEP could possibly make,” said Franklin head coach Flo Valdez in a release. “Ben is enthusiastic, he’s a go getter and he’s passionate about the game. When he started with me as a freshman coach [at Franklin High School], I knew he was going to go far. He has been a friend of mine for a long time.  He knows El Paso and he knows high school volleyball in El Paso. I have no doubt that UTEP is going to go to great heights quickly with Ben. I am so excited for him, El Paso and for volleyball in general in our community.”