Setter Andrea Hole makes her mark quickly at UL-Lafayette _lowres

Photo by Brad Kemp/ UL-Lafayette volleyball player Andrea Hole, right, sets the ball for Kaylee Nemeth during their match against UL-Monroe on Sunday.

When Andrea Hole arrived in Lafayette, she knew two people in town.

Now, the two-year captain of the Louisiana-Lafayette volleyball team has helped guide the Cajuns to their first 20-win season since 1990.

The Cajuns (20-12 and 9-11 in Sun Belt play) arrived at the conference tournament in San Marcos, Texas, as the sixth seed. They will take on the third-seeded Arkansas State Red Wolves at 5 p.m. Thursday at Texas State.

“My sister was at UCLA, and I always looked up to her,” Hole said. “I literally Googled places down South and I talked to the coaches here and I sent e-mails and a video. I felt comfortable, even though I didn’t know anyone else here except the coaches.”

Hole had come to Lafayette from Oslo, Norway. Even in those early days, coach Heather Mazeitis-Fontenot had a feeling that Hole would be a big part of the program’s progression. Hole gained guidance from the staff during her freshman season in 2011 when she served as the backup setter to Mandi Gavin.

“We knew right away that she would be important,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “She would have been setting right away if Mandi Gavin had not been so far along in her playing career.”

Hole’s head start partially came from her family. Her mother played volleyball at the University of Hawaii. Her sister, Mari, later transferred to Ohio State from UCLA.

“It had always been a dream for me and my sister to play volleyball in the U.S.,” Hole said. “At home (in Norway), the university volleyball is more like a club team season.”

Hole’s junior season at UL-Lafayette included her being named second team All-Sun Belt. She has 1,275 assists this season. The 10.12 assist-per-set pace has her ranked fifth in the conference in a tight group where the second-place figure is 10.54. Hole is also second on the Cajuns in digs with 385. She was the national captain in 2009-10 for the Norwegian Junior National Team.

“My intelligence within the game has improved a lot over the last two years,” Hole said. “A lot of things — like what play to run and what offense to run — a lot of that goes on behind the scenes.”

The Cajuns’ start at the conference tournament comes against an Arkansas State team they faced five days ago. The Red Wolves won that match 3-1, and they defeated UL-Lafayette 3-2 on November 2.

Sophomore middle blocker Chanelle Gardner is second on the Cajuns with 305 kills and she leads the team with 103 blocks. Mazeitis-Fontenot cited the performance of her team in the middle as a key factor in the first-round match.

“It’s a good matchup,” she said. “We were missing (middle blocker) Kae Kae Lockhart last week due to a family emergency. Can we make a run in the tournament? Heck, yeah!”

That enthusiasm is also based on a setter who found a second home in Lafayette.

“Andrea has been consistent, and she gives you that A-plus-plus effort,” Mazeitis-Fontenot said. “Even when she is tired, she gives everything she has.”