Lobo volleyball player Moldan is a super Title IX success story - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo volleyball player Moldan is a super Title IX success story

One year from now, Alena Moldan will decide if she will play volleyball for one more year at the University of New Mexico or begin the physician’s assistant two-year program, working in a hospital or a clinic where she will assist a doctor or surgeon.

Moldan, the Lobos’ standout senior libero who carries a 4.2 grade-point average, will have the option of an extra year because of the coronavirus-shortened season of 2020-21.

Moreoever, she will have the option to pursue great opportunities both on and off the court because of Title IX, the law that was enacted 50 years ago that prohibits sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity) discrimination in any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.

To lead off our series on Title IX, we were looking for a face of our coverage, as it were. There are countless athletes who could have fit that bill – whose lives have been benefited and will benefit greatly by going through the doors that the federal legislation has unlocked.

A biology and psychology major with a minor in chemistry, Moldan is a fitting choice to represent what it’s all about.

What does Title IX mean to Moldan?

“The opportunity to be able to do something that’s never been done before,” said Moldan, a captain and starter for every match since arriving at UNM in 2019.

“That’s always the goal with female athletics is just to do the best you can to represent other female athletes and the girls that are looking up to you.

“I remember being one of those little girls and wanting to play college volleyball and watching all of them and how amazing they were, all of the cool stuff that they got to do, and I think just representing that is just a really cool thing to do. There wasn’t always an opportunity in sports for women to actually go play in college and to do the things that we can today. It’s just really great to be one of those female athletes.”

It’s not a stretch to say that Moldan is taking full advantage of the opportunity Title IX provides, and those steps began while growing up in Lakeville, Minnesota.

A focus on Title IX, pure talent and undeniable desire began in those early days.

Alena looks up to her older sister by two years, Allison.

Alena dabbled in soccer, softball, gymnastics, swimming and basketball before honing in on volleyball.

Libero seemed perfect for Alena. She’s quick, low to the ground and able to chase down balls to keep rallies alive.

“She’s our anchor,” UNM volleyball coach Jon Newman-Gonchar said of Alena.

“When our team is in a moment of frustration or panic, she’s that calm, cool voice when the team needs to get fired up and needs some energy, she’s that energizer bunny. She reads the room well.”

Moldan was a big reason for the Lobos’ recent turnaround. In 2020-21, UNM went 4-10, 4-10 in Mountain West play. Last season, the Lobo shot up to 20-10, 11-7 in league play.

It’s easy to see that Moldan has earned her full scholarship to play at UNM.

Last season, Moldan, already on scholarship, was named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week three times. The team captain started all 30 matches and played in all 107 sets. She recorded double-digit digs in 23 matches including 20-plus in eight. In addition she had a career-high 30 digs against Seattle.

Newman-Gonchar doesn’t like to talk about or reveal scholarship distribution.

“The reality of it is we’re a head-count sport, with 12 scholarships, and I have more than 12 athletes on my team,” Newman-Gonchar said. “When it comes to individual scholarship allocation and offers, I tend to keep that pretty tight purely because it’s me and their parents and the financial office; as far as standard practice.”

Yet clearly the competition for scholarships starts before college play begins. Moldan entered UNM with no scholarship. But she had been working hard for that aid long before she became a Lobo.

Her family would travel to various cities so that Alena and Allison (who went on to play at St. Benedict College in Minnesota) could compete.

One time, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Marty, the Moldans’ father, jumped in and out of Uber rides so that he could see his girls play in as many games as possible.

“It was certainly a great experience.” Marty Moldan said. “We laugh about it now but it was certainly fun and enjoyable.”

The Moldans are an athletic, competitive family. Mom Gwen competed in golf at Mankato State, where she met her husband. Marty didn’t play collegiate sports, but he never back downs from a Wiffle ball game or a board game in the living room.

Alena is just as competitive when it comes to academics.

Alena graduated in the top 15 of her class at Lakeville South High School, finished as a National Honor Society Member and was named to the Dean’s List.

So, just where would Moldan be without her Title IX opportunity?

“I like to think that I would still be here for school,” Alena said. “I really like it here. I really love the program. I probably wouldn’t have discovered it or thought about it without volleyball. All the connections that I made here I owe a big part of that to my opportunities to be able to come here. Otherwise I would probably be at a smaller school in Minnesota.

“I don’t know if I would be involved as much. This has given me the opportunity to work with people that I would not have experienced working with. I would not have that opportunity anywhere else.”

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