Youthful Team Improves In 2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  12/12/2006
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Dec. 12, 2006

Before the 2006 season began, head coach Kelley McKee knew she had a young and inexperienced team but she remained optimistic. The talent was there and the entire conference was young so she felt they could definitely compete. Her main goal was to see the team get better every day and finish the season strong, playing their best volleyball.

After the first two weekends of the season, things looked bleak. The Lobos were 2-5 and suffered three tough losses at the Baylor Clarion Invitational. The Lobos were also plagued by injuries, playing without sophomore transfer Jeanne Fairchild and freshman Anna Lehne for most of those tournaments.

With Fairchild's return for the Comcast Lobo Invitational, New Mexico won its first two matches and was set to play in the title game against Cal State Fullerton. However, the Lobos lost their lone senior, Kelly Therkelsen, to an ankle sprain. The loss of leadership showed as they were shut out on their home court. The loss to the Titans started the Lobos second four-match losing streak of the season, dropping their record to 4-9 and 0-2 in the Mountain West Conference.

On the road at Air Force, UNM welcomed Therkelsen back to the rotation and blanked the Falcons on their home court. The Lobos carried the momentum home and swept San Diego State for their second win in a row and evened their conference record at 2-2.

Looking like they were headed for their third straight win, the Lobos couldn't hold on against UNLV at home, falling in five games. The loss was the beginning of a five-match losing streak, which saw New Mexico play three top-25 teams on the road in No. 16 Utah, No. 19 BYU and No. 25 New Mexico State.

The Lobos returned home and picked up a much-needed win over Air Force but fell in their next three, all by scores of 3-0. The remainder of the season didn't look promising with matches against BYU and Utah up next, followed by feisty TCU and Wyoming to close out the season.

BYU, ranked No. 18 nationally at the time, came to Albuquerque with its only conference loss coming to Utah. The Cougars had won 23 straight over UNM, dating back to 1995. Subbing only once in game three, the seven Lobo starters played nearly perfect and beat the Cougars in four games. The next night UNM tried to carry over the momentum vs. ninth-ranked Utah but fell in four. The performance was still impressive considering Utah was slicing through the MWC members like butter, usually winning in three.

New Mexico concluded the home portion of its schedule on Friday, Nov. 10 against TCU. The Lobos, led by Therkelsen and Fairchild, put on a show for all to see as the first volleyball game from Johnson Center was broadcast nationally on the mtn. The Lobos won 3-0 in an intense, close match.

The pressure was on for the last match of the regular season. Four teams, including the Lobos, were vying for seeds 5-8 in the Mountain West Conference Tournament. All they needed was a win at Wyoming to finish higher than eighth but the Cowgirls had been almost unbeatable at home all season. UNM fell 3-0 in Laramie and three teams, TCU, San Diego State and New Mexico, all finished 5-11. The seedings for the tournament were then decided on head-to-head points instead of quality wins and the Lobos wound up the eighth seed.

Head coach Kelley McKee resigned at the end of the 2006 season after five years at the helm of the Lobo program.

Playing ninth-seeded Air Force for a bid to face top-seeded Utah in the quarterfinals, the Lobos posted the conference's best attack percentage of the season, hitting .483 (48K-6E-87TA) to shut out the Falcons. The next night, the Lobos tried to repeat their performance but the ninth-ranked Utes were running on all cylinders, cruising to a 3-0 win. The loss ended New Mexico's season, which finished 10-20 overall.

Individually, several of the Lobos thrived this year. Three Lobos etched their names into the career record book, three placed in the season record book and two left their mark on the single-match record list.

Therkelsen finished her career second at UNM all-time in blocks (336) and block assists (326), making her only the second Lobo to ever post 300 block assists and just the fifth to record 300 total blocks. She also placed eighth in attack attempts (2,571), ninth in kills (941) and points (1,192) and 10th in matches played (109). Therkelsen also received academic honors, placing on the ESPN the Magazine District VI all-academic second team.

Fairchild, after her performance Nov. 3 and 4 against BYU and Utah, earned the program's first ever MWC Player of the Week honors. She finished ninth in the conference in kills this season, averaging 3.33 per game. In individual matches, she dropped in the most aces in the MWC this year with seven against Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 2. The seven aces also tied for the second most in UNM history. Her 24 kills vs. BYU on Nov. 3 tied for the seventh most in a single match in the MWC this season and her 27 points that game was the 10th most as well.

Sophomore Gayle Tripp has a breakout year as a libero. In the MWC this season, she placed fourth in digs, averaging 4.29 per game and fifth in aces, averaging 0.36 per game. Her 22 digs on Oct. 28 at UNLV is the fourth-most in a three-game match and her 29 digs vs. UTEP is the fourth most in a four-game match this year. The 29 digs also tied her for the fifth most ever recorded in a single match in UNM history. Tripp's 433 digs this season is the third highest total in one year at UNM and her 4.29 digs per game average is the second best in UNM's season record book. She notched 36 aces in 2006, just missing a three-way tie for eighth place in the Lobo season book, needing 38. Tripp also boosted her career digs per game average to 3.44, moving her into sixth in the program's history.

Sarah Kwasigroch avoided the sophomore slump, finishing sixth in the conference with a 10.57 assists per game average this season. She passed out the fifth most assists in a three-game match in the MWC with 47 against San Diego State on Sept. 29. The very next night, she matched her career high for assists, dishing out 63 vs. UNLV, which ties for the fifth-most in the MWC this year. Her 1,068 assists and 10.57 assists per game average were not as high as her freshman numbers but they still placed her among the top-10 in the program's season record book. Kwasigroch placed eighth in assists and ninth in assists per game average. For her career, she holds the best apg average in UNM history at 10.73 and places eighth in total assists with 2,156.

Next year, the Lobos return all but one player from the 2006 team but it will be a whole new experience for the athletes and the fans. On Dec. 5, McKee resigned as head coach of the Lobos after five seasons and a 47-97 record.

Saturday, August 22
7:00 PM - 
vs. Alumnae (Exhibition)