After finishing tied for last place during the last two seasons, St. Olaf volleyball has accomplished a 180-degree flip in 2017, currently positioned in a tight battle for their first playoff appearance in five years. Lauren Rewers ’20 has been at the forefront of the Oles’ success, leading the MIAC in individual kills (349) and kills per set (3.71), emerging as a breakout star and jumpstarting St. Olaf’s offense to one of the most intimidating in an already formidable conference. With Rewers leading the way, the Oles look to maintain their sixth place status and clinch a playoff seed against current fifth place contender St. Mary’s.
Q: What’s been the biggest contributing factor towards your improvement?
A: I only played three rotations in the front row last year, so coming into this season I was determined to be a six-rotation player always on the court. That spot was definitely not going to be handed to me, so I’ve had to work really hard to improve every aspect of my game. Coach Emily always talks about continuous improvement and that was something I really took to heart. Every game is a clean slate, so I am always working to be the best I can be each individual game and each individual point.
Q: What have been the biggest difference makers for the team’s rapid turnaround from last fall?
A: I think that team mindset has played a huge role in our success this season. Every player on the team is 100 percent committed to working hard on and off the court, and the commitment has allowed us to make drastic improvements to our mentality and game. The seniors last year were awesome leaders who really set the bar high, encouraging us to work hard and give to the team no matter the situation. They instilled in the program such a commitment and love for the game that I think we have really used their guidance from last year and ran with it. We also gained some awesome first years who I am so glad to be playing with. All of them completely buy into the program we are building and some have become huge impact players during every game, which is so awesome. I really feel like we are motivated by the desire to play and give everything to our teammates. I am out on that court because I love the game and love the girls I’m playing with, and know they would all say the same thing. We are a team of achievers, so no one is settling for “good enough” or “almost winning.” We are determined to be the best we can be, and the outcome of that is winning.
Q: How is the team preparing for your upcoming conference matches with a potential playoff spot on the line?
A: We haven’t won anything yet, and we know that this week is crucial to secure a playoff spot. We never go into games assuming a win or assuming to get the outcome we want without working hard for it. I love playing in the MIAC because it is such a competitive conference, so no conference game we’ve played has been easy. Every game is a new challenge and can have any outcome, so we definitely try to keep our mentality the same for every game. We started the season ranked 12th in the MIAC, knowing that it would be a battle to prove people wrong and bring ourselves to the top of the conference, and even though we are doing way better than anyone might’ve thought we would, we still fight every game as the underdog with nothing to lose and everything to prove.
Q: Describe some of your volleyball background. How did you start playing? What role models or teachers have helped guide you through your career thus far?
A: I grew up playing soccer, but my mom played volleyball in college so it was always something she encouraged me to try. I started playing club volleyball in sixth grade while still playing club soccer, but realized soon that I liked volleyball a lot more than soccer. I blew out my knee my sophomore year in high school, during our biggest rivalry match of the season. With a dislocated kneecap, torn ACL and shredded meniscus, my sophomore season ended and I spent the next year in recovery. My team went 32-6 that season finishing sixth in the state of California, and I was their loudest cheerleader from the bench. That year in rehab really made me realize how much I valued being an athlete and how I hated not being able to play, so I was determined to strengthen my body and get back on the court. I think I realized that year that I wanted to be playing at a competitive level for as long as possible, so I started working on being recruited for college. My parents have been my biggest support system throughout everything, the really good and the really bad, and I honestly wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I also wouldn’t be anywhere without my physical therapist, because he was the person who pushed me to get better, believed in me when I was so sure I’d never play volleyball again and celebrated with me when I was finally cleared after a long year of rehabilitation.
Q: What do you feel your greatest asset is as an athlete, and what’s a part of your game that you feel can improve?
A: I think one of my biggest assets as an athlete is belief in myself. Volleyball is basically a game of who can make the least mistakes, so it’s really easy to get caught up in what happened in the past play, or other mistakes that were made in points before. I work really hard to move on from a point, whether I just got a kill or hit the ball into the net, because ultimately that point is irrelevant now. I am not a player who gets caught up in my mistakes or in my head, which I think has really helped me to be successful. I have a strong desire to keep developing because it is impossible to play a completely perfect game, so I am always working on limiting the number of errors I make. This requires sustained focus and discipline, something my coach and teammates do an awesome job holding me accountable for.