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2021 Lobo Volleyball Season One for the Record Books

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.— The record book will need a major overhaul following the Lobo volleyball 2021 season.

UNM started off the season projected to finish 10th in the Mountain West preseason poll as voted on by the coaches and without a player on the preseason list.

However, the Lobos quickly proved that this season and this team would be different and that they’d prove the naysayers wrong, sweeping their first seven opponents and going 23-straight sets before dropping a set in an 8-0 season start. Heading into the UNM home tournament in the third week of the season, the Lobos were one of four teams in the country that hadn’t dropped a set, and when all was said and done, were one of the final two teams standing that hadn’t dropped a set to start the season.

The Lobos entered conference play 9-2, having won three weekly conference awards, nearly matching the program record of MW weekly awards of four, with Kaitlynn Biassou (offensive), Alena Moldan (defensive) and Elizabeth Woods (freshman) all earning their first conference weekly honors.

Further, the Lobos’ 5-0 start was a feat that last occurred in 2009, the last time UNM started 8-2 was in 2009, and as the season unfolded, New Mexico recorded their best start through the first 15 matches (12-3) since 2007, and best start through 20 matches since 2007. The last team to start 8-0 was in 2008.

UNM was ranked among the best in the country in opponent hitting percentage, holding the No. 1 rating for three weeks and was in the top-10 six weeks.

New Mexico started off MW play with two home sweeps over Air Force and Fresno State in dominating fashion. The Lobos were clicking from the start of the Air Force match, leading from first point to set point in the first two sets, and held the edge in kills (39-28), assists (33-28), total blocks (7.0-6.0) and service aces (4-0), while also holding the Falcons to .083 while hitting .326. The trend continued against the Bulldogs, earning their ninth sweep of the season, and held the advantage in kills (41-30), assists (33-29), digs (47-40), service aces (4-2) and blocks (8.0-7.0), while hitting .257 and holding the Bulldogs to just .067, the seventh opponent on the season that the Lobos held under .100 hitting percentage.

Going on the road to face San Diego State, a team historically that UNM has not fared well against, the Lobos changed the narrative, achieving something that hadn’t been done since 2009 and in the process achieved another feat that hadn’t been done since 2014.

With their four-set win over San Diego State, the Lobos defeated the Aztecs for the first time in San Diego since Oct. 31, 2009, also in four sets, and started conference play 3-0 for the first time since 2014. In addition, it marked the first win against SDSU since Nov. 19, 2016, a span of eight matches.

UNM dropped its first conference match against UNLV but responded the following week with two monumental wins over Utah State and Boise State to hold the top spot in the conference at 14-3 overall, 5-1 in conference. The win against Boise State snapped a five-match losing streak to the Broncos that dated back to 2018 and was the first home win against BSU since Oct. 4, 2014.

The historic season continued for the Lobos in a sweep of Wyoming followed by a four-set win against Colorado State, with the Rams leading the conference and entering the match on a seven-match win streak in which five of those wins came in sweeps.

New Mexico’s win over Wyoming snapped a seven-match losing streak dating back to 2017, with the last home win occurring on Sept. 26, 2013, both times happening in three sets. UNM’s win against CSU was the first win at home against the Rams since Sept. 20, 2012 and the first win overall against the Rams since Nov. 17, 2018.  As a team, UNM outhit CSU .250 to .161 and held the advantage in every statistical category: kills (49-48), assists (46-43), blocks (11.0-5.0), digs (62-46) and service aces (2-1). In the fourth set, UNM won 25-14 to clinch the match, and was just the second time that CSU had been held to 14 points in a set of a MW match this season.

Coming down the homestretch of the MW season, the Lobos were holding a coveted top-six spot in the MW standings, but secured their spot with wins in their final three matches, sweeping San Diego State on Senior Day, and winning a come-from-behind five-set match over Air Force that officially solidified UNM’s spot in the Mountain West Tournament. The Lobos won their final regular season match at Fresno State in four sets, finishing the season fifth in the Mountain West, the highest finish for the Lobos since 2015.

The Lobos finished the regular season 20-9, 11-7 in conference, it is the first time with 20 wins since 2013 and the 11 conference wins the most since 2014. It also signified the first winning record for the program since 2015, and with 12 sweeps and 10 home wins, the most sweeps in a season since 2017 and the most home wins for the program since 2015.

In addition, UNM finished the regular season with a conference-best eight weekly conference awards, with Moldan earning three defensive nods, Biassou two offensive nods, Woods two freshman nods and Uxue Guereca closing the season with her first career offensive award.

The Mountain West coaches recognized Biassou and Guereca as among the best in the Mountain West Conference, selecting the duo for the All-Conference Team.

It was the second all-conference honor for Biassou and the first for Guereca, and of note, the first time that UNM has had two players make all-conference since 2017. However, in 2017 that included an honorable mention. The last time that UNM had two on the “first team” all-conference team was in 2015.

Biassou’s accolade came after the junior co-captain finished second in the Mountain West in points and points per set in Mountain West matches, with 290.5 and 4.40, respectively. The outside hitter was also third in the conference in kills and kills per set with 252 kills and 3.82 kills per set.

Of the 18 conference matches, the Reno, Nev., native recorded 10-plus kills in 13, including 20-plus kills in three and a career-high 26 kills in the win over Utah State. Her 26 kills were the second-highest total by a Mountain West player in a match this season and her 21 against Nevada were the second most by a player in a three-set match. In addition, her 30 points against Utah State and 26.5 points against Nevada were the second and third highest points scored by a player this season. Biassou had two of the five highest point totals produced this season.

She also hit over .400 in five matches, over .500 in three and hit a career-best .606 in the win at Nevada. From the service line, Biassou registered at least one service ace in 10 matches, finishing with four aces in two matches.

Guereca and Biassou proved to be the perfect pair with Guereca registering 202 kills, an average of 3.21 kills per set, 154 digs for 2.44 digs per set and 236.0 points for 3.75 points per set while hitting .275. The outside hitter finished with double-digit kills in 11 conference matches and 20-plus in the last two matches of the regular season. As a result of her performance, Guereca was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week earlier this week, her first career offensive weekly award.

The Mexico native had a career-best 23 kills in the match at Air Force and her 22 against Fresno State was tied for the second highest by a player in four sets.

She also tallied seven double-doubles during conference play and finished eighth in the conference in kills per set but with the seventh-most kills, and eighth in points per set but with the sixth-most points.

The outside hitter hit .400 or better in five matches and .500 or better in two matches, which included hitting .545 and .452 twice in the last three matches.

The duo were the top-two leaders on the team in kills and kills per set, as the only two to register triple digits in the category, as well as in points and points per set, with Biassou leading in service aces and Guereca second in digs.

In her first season as a Lobo, sophomore setter Melissa Walden played a huge role in the Lobos’ success, recording 40-plus assists (career-high 42 assists in the win over Boise State) once, 30-plus assists in 11 matches and 20-plus assists in 10, finishing with 752 assists and an average of 8.0 per set.

Further, Walden registered a team-high 13 double-doubles, recorded 34 kills, 13 service aces, 250 digs and 19 total blocks (1 solo, 18 assisted).

Several milestones were also reached by a couple of Lobos in the final match of the season, with Biassou recording her 1000th-career point and Moldan her 1000th-career dig.

Biassou broke into the top-10 in program history in single-season kills in the 25-point rally era with 391, good for ninth. Her 36 service aces this season were the most by a player since Julia Warren had 31 in 2016 and the most in a single season in program history in the 25-point rally scoring era and the junior produced the eight-most points in a single-season in program history in the 25-point rally scoring era with 459.5 points. Her five service aces against Northern Arizona were tied for the second-most in program history in a match in the 25-point rally scoring era and her 26 kills against Utah State were tied for the fifth-most in a match in the program in the rally-scoring era.

Moldan entered the top-10 in program history in single-season digs in the 25-point rally era with 432 for the eighth most. Walden finished in the top 10 in single-season assists in program history in the 25-point rally era with 752 assists, which places her eighth.

As a team, the Lobos tallied the third-most service aces in the 25-point rally scoring era with 142 and had the third-best attack percentage in the rally scoring era at .227. They also tied for the ninth-most block assists in the rally era with 392, a total that was last achieved in 2009.

When it came to fan attendance, the Lobos finished with an attendance of 7481 for their 13 home matches, an average of 575 per match. UNM had a season-best 908 people in attendance in its win over Boise State and had its second highest total on Senior Day against San Diego State with 787 people in attendance.

The attendance figures were the highest since 2018 when the Lobos had an average of 635 fans and a total of 7619, but was an improvement from the last true “home season” in 2019 when the Lobos had nine home matches and an average of 503 fans per match for a season total of 4524.

The Lobos lose Kassie McGill, Mmachi Nwoke, Hayley Torres and Chloe Clark from the 2021 roster but return all starters from this season.