Thursdays With ... Lauren Van Orden

Sept. 29, 2011

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Every Thursday, will sit down with a member of the women's volleyball team. This week, we talk with senior Lauren Van Orden, who discusses last weekend's atmosphere at the John Wooden Center, her new-found superstitions and the people who have influenced her the most. How amazing was the atmosphere in the Wooden Center last weekend?
Lauren Van Orden: It was really great. We didn't know what to expect. We hadn't reached out to the students yet. But it was great to come out there 40 minutes before the match and have the entire student section filled. It was great to see them there. Playing in that gym and in that atmosphere, every time there was a point, whether it was the first game or the fifth game, they were loud. It was even more intense because the fans were so much closer. It was so much fun.

.com: How has the first week of school gone?
LVO: Pretty good. I'm kind of excited about my public health class. It's about diseases in society and epidemiology. I'm kind of taking a step outside my bounds.

.com: How excited are you to be returning to your home state this weekend?
LVO: I'm really excited. I've been talking with my sister and her kids, and my brother-in-law, and I'm really excited to see them because it's been a while, and it's also been a while since they've seen me play. My parents moved out here, so they don't live there anymore, and my sister doesn't live in the Denver area. But I'm excited that I'll be able to see them at the hotel and hang out with them for a little bit.

.com: What were the best and worst things about being the youngest of three children in the Van Orden household?
LVO: The best was that I was able to get away with some of the things that my brother and sister did before me. I got picked on a lot by both of them and that was one of the worst things. But I learned from both of them with their relationships with our parents and learned things I should or shouldn't do.

.com: Why did you change your number from #1 to #5 this season?
LVO: I never really liked the #1. I really don't like being the first one out there and I told (former assistant coach Dan Conners) that going into last season, but it's the number he gave me. So when Mari Hole left I switched to #5.

.com: What do you like the most about being a setter?
LVO: I'm sure every setter says this, but I like being in control. You are the interaction between the offense and defense and I think it's cool that you can affect so many areas of the game. A bunch of people look to you, and at times it's overwhelming and nerve-wracking, but it's a pretty cool feeling when a hitter comes down after a great kill.

.com: What is the most difficult thing about being a setter?
LVO: You can get blamed for a lot if things aren't going well. It's easy to put it on my shoulders, as it should be. Sometimes you get 15 different hitters on a team and those hitters have different sets. So you are dealing with a lot of different hits for a lot of different players and it's hard to keep track of that sometimes.

.com: What are you more excited about? Getting a solo block or dumping a ball over for a kill?
LVO: Solo block. I'll probably never forget this against Stanford (last year) against Rachel Williams. It was like the third or fourth set and we had been practicing the 1-on-1 move all week and I did that to her and the ball went straight down and it was a really cool feeling.

.com: When did you start playing volleyball? Why did you get into it?
LVO: I started playing in the third or fourth grade. My sister was in club volleyball and I went to her tournaments. It was cool to go to camps and stuff and start club ball. I was just a freak about it when I was little. I wanted to do it all the time. During summer I would do camps and I'd do one in the morning, one in the afternoon and another in the evening. I've been doing three-a-days during summer since I was 12. And I loved it. I was in the gym all day long.

.com: What do you enjoy the most about playing volleyball?
LVO: There is not just one part. There is not one part I'm not passionate about or trying to get better at. I'm lucky because I know a lot of girls that get into it that young and fall out of love with it and get burned out. It's really easy to when you are around it yearlong when you are that young. I've always rather been in the gym than not and so that's why it's hard to think about not having it. I don't think it's really hit me that I'll be done in a couple months because it's all I've ever done. I love the entire sport.

.com: Go through your pre-game routine.
LVO: The only pre-game thing I do is the night before when I try to visualize. I think that makes, above and beyond, a difference. I can just tell the difference of when I visualize and when I don't the day after the match. I'm kind of nervous and upset that I've gotten into having a lucky knee pad and ankle brace. Because Katie (Camp) last year had that knee pad superstition and she didn't have them at Oregon and you know what happened. But I had started off wearing knee pads and ankle braces when we beat Hawai'i and I didn't have those same knee pads for Pepperdine, but I had the same ankle braces. And then when we went to Washington, I didn't have either of them. I had both of them for last weekend. So now I can't go a match without them and I feel trapped. It's a horrible feeling. I don't believe in superstitions, but here I am. Even if I wash them, I still know which two are my lucky ones. It's weird.

.com: What has been your most exciting moment at UCLA?
LVO: Beating Stanford last year. That was the first game where I started to believe in myself and to beat what was thought of as the #1 team in the country was a pretty sweet feeling.

.com: What will you miss the most about your time at UCLA?
LVO: Last year I felt I was a little bit more worried about the volleyball aspect and I wasn't really myself in social situations and I think this year I've developed more friendships and more bonds on the team and I connect a lot more with people. It kind of sucks that it won't be that way coming around in the winter.

.com: What will you miss the least?
LVO: Dynamic stretching before a match. I hate dynamic and there are more than a few who share that thought. And I hate the bike workouts that we do at weights.

.com: What other UCLA athletic events do you like to attend?
LVO: I like going to water polo. It was surprisingly awesome. I watched water polo in the Olympics and it was really cool. Last year, we went to men's against USC and it was so much fun. This guy was pushing this guy on top of his head and rising up out of the water and throwing the ball and I was like, "Oh, I'm in the wrong sport!" And even watching women's on TV, it's so cool. If I thought that somebody was going to attack me under water, I'd go nuts. I'd lose track of the ball and go nuts. That sport is so cool to go and watch in person.

.com: What has been your favorite class at UCLA?
LVO: Romanian last summer. At first I was a little bit upset because I wasn't in the same Romanian class as my teammates, because there were eight of them in one class and I was put in the other one. On the first day, my teacher is talking about homework and I'm texting Katie (Camp) and she's talking about her teacher laughing and that they haven't even gotten to the syllabus yet and I was like, "What? I'm in the worst class!" But our entire class was athletes, so I got to meet a tennis player and I've talked to players about giving me lessons. My softball roommate (Marti Reed) was in there. So I got to meet other people and got to know them.

.com: What is your favorite road arena to play in?
LVO: My freshman year (at San Diego State) we played at TCU and it was kind of like the Wooden Center, where the bleachers were down on the floor and fans were screaming. It was an awesome place to play in.

.com: What is your favorite website?
LVO: StumpleUpon. I just found it two days ago, but I've probably been on there for about five hours over the last two days. I could be on there for so long. I have so many interests though. I'm usually like, "just one more Stumble."

.com: If you could trade places for a day with a celebrity, who would it be?
LVO: Anna Kournikova. Because she's a tennis player.

.com: If you could travel anywhere around the world, where would it be?
LVO: Italy or Australia.

.com: If you could have one super power, what would it be?
LVO: To fly or to swim under water.

.com: Who is your favorite professional athlete?
LVO: LeBron James.

.com: Who is the team's class clown?
LVO: Nikki (Casale). She's just fun to be around, and even though she's had some rough times here, she's still been able to see the positive side of things, and that's kind of inspiring.

.com: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
LVO: I like reading. I recently read "The Lone Survivor." It's about a Navy SEAL who was on a mission in Afghanistan and his group got ambushed and he got stranded. I like first-hand accounts. I like military reads and suspense and crime novels.

.com: Who has been the most influential person/people in your life?
LVO: My mom and dad are at the top. My dad is so motivational and he keeps me grounded. Just being able to talk to them after games or whenever. They are the best support system for me. Coaching-wise, my high school coach (Patty Childress) was the one who turned me into a setter. My sophomore year, I had joked that I always wanted to set, but nobody let me. I was a right-side hitter and my coach gave me a chance and we won a tournament. Mike (Sealy) has also had a big influence on me. He's changed me as a person and how I view the entire world and how I interact with people. My first club coach, Steve Huntingdale, he was an in-your-face coach and very disciplined and he installed that fight and aggression in me and made me learn how to harness it.

.com: What are your post-UCLA plans?
LVO: I'm trying to think about that right now. I'm on track to graduate in March. I joke with my sister about going back and being a nanny for her for three months, just because I miss those kids. I've always been told that I'd be a really good coach. I'm exploring the possibility of trying to be a graduate assistant for a program. It's tough to picture my life without volleyball. Like last year when I was out with a concussion, I remember sitting on the bench and Madie (Smith) coming to me sometimes when Joy (McKienzie-Fuerbringer) wasn't talking to her. Being able to help her and sitting on the bench with the coaches I thought, "man, this is so much fun." It was really cool to be able to help her out and see it from that perspective. I'm not going to say no to playing, but it'd have to be the right place, the right money, the right team, but I'm not gunning for it.

Previous Thursdays With ...
Sara Sage
Katie Camp
Rachael Kidder
Kelly Reeves
Megan Moenoa
Tabi Love
Mariana Aquino
Bojana Todorovic

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