West Aurora (Aurora, Ill.) senior Lauren Carlini was named the 2012-13 Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year on Tuesday. Carlini, a 6-foot-1 senior setter/right-side hitter bound for Wisconsin, recorded 333 kills, 303 assists, 156 digs, 92 aces and 50 blocks this fall.
We sat down with Carlini to better understand how she beat out more than 400,000 high school volleyball players nationwide to win the award.
Q: You’re the team DJ. One game for all the marbles: What’s on your three-song playlist during warm-ups?
A: Easy. “Heads Will Roll” remix, “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey and “Dream On” by Aerosmith.
Q: What were the crowds like at the 2011 FIVB Girls Youth World Championships in Turkey while playing for the U.S. Girls Youth National Team during the summer?
A: It was deafening. Fans were shreiking continuously during matches. The stadium was packed. Amost everyone was waving banners and flags. I wasn’t expecting that level of crazy.
Q: You’ve built a reputation for quickly adapting to the hitting preferences and styles of all your teammates. How do you do that so fast?
A: I guess it’s about thousands of touches and extra hours in the gym. And a lot of focus and self-discipline. Some serious attention to detail, too. As a setter, you have to take ownership and you have to be nit-picky.
Q: You’ve had to be a leader in this program since your sophomore year when you led West Aurora to the conference title for the first time in 30 years. How did having to lead so soon impact your development?
A: It was a challenge at first to balance my role and fit in with the upperclassmen on the squad. I’d had leadership experience at the club level and that transferred a bit, but I had to find my place and relax. For me, it was not so much about vocalizing as it was about being an example. That approach has definitely shaped me as a player.
Q: You’ve said you’re ‘intimidated’ by the resumes of the talent around you in some volleyball settings. Obviously you respect your competition, but how can the Gatorade National Player of the Year be intimidated?
A: I never perceive myself as being one of the best. Even with this great honor Gatorade has given me today, I’ll still never approach the game like that. I don’t like being in the spotlight and it’s important to me to stay down to earth and humble. I’m always thinking about getting better.
Q: You’re a huge Harry Potter fan. Which house of Hogwarts are you going to be assigned to?
A: Gryffindor, for sure!
Q: Your dad’s a fireman and, maybe not coincidentally, his hot wings are your favorite food. How hot are they?
A: They have the perfect amount of heat. Dunk ’em in ranch and you’re good to go.