Lauren Sproule Brings International Experience to Utah Volleyball

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Lauren Sproule Brings International Experience to Utah Volleyball

By Leif Thulin

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Entering the fall sports season for University of Utah athletics, with so much national attention focused on the Utes football team, many forget about a very accomplished and hungry Utah Women’s volleyball team eager to compete for a Pac-12 title this season.

A year ago, the Utes volleyball team compiled an impressive 19-14 record, with a 10-10 Pac-12 record. The Utes, when playing in the friendly confines of the Huntsman Center, posted a great 9-5 home record, and will look to build off that success this year.

The season ended on a sour note after a good stretch, when the team fell to their in-state rival, fourth-ranked Brigham Young University, in three straight sets during the NCAA tournament.

The team this year is deep and talented —the returning standouts include second-team All-American and All Pac-12 first team performer Dani Drews, junior Kenzie Koerber and senior libero Brianna Doehrmann. These three accomplished veterans look to lead the Utes to Pac-12 title contention, and they have the core around them this year to do just that. 

A few players looking to take leaps and really contribute to this season’s success are Berkeley Oblad, Megan Yett and Lauren Sproule. Sproule is a Canadian transplant on this almost exclusively American team — the redshirt junior is from Lethbridge, Alberta. 

She switched from Outside Hitter to Middle Blocker the past year, and after traveling to Canada to play for her country in the collegiate games, and she is looking to make her presence known above the net in the PAC-12, and all around the country. 

“Playing for your country is such an incredibly prideful experience that I’m so glad I was able to take part in this summer,” Sproule said. I was in the gym training every day and gained some incredible experience.”

Missing fall camp to play for Canada is an unconventional way to enter a season, but in this case, it is one that may reap great rewards as she can further develop as a player with new insights. Hopefully, the chemistry gained from last year’s stretch run helps Sproule and the Utes transition into the season, which started at the Utah Classic tournament on Friday, even without her attending the fall camp. 

Sproule will look to implement some of what she learned while playing for her country, such as working tirelessly on her passing, which Sproule lists as her greatest improvement of the offseason. After a period of transition, Sproule changed her position from what she was recruited as — an outside hitter — to the ever difficult middle blocker position.

Sproule spouted off differences between the two positions, stating, “ There is a lot more movement and more variables when you are blocking and running around that is even more important to reset in your eye work”.

Sproule, a consummate teammate, clearly understands the positional transition and will be a force on the court in a position of more need in comparison to the crowded outside hitter position manned notably by Drews and Koerber. Along with redshirt sophomore Phoebe Grace and redshirt senior Oblad, Sproule will man the middle and hopefully dominate above the net.

Sproule came to the U after being impressed by the incredible volleyball facilities and staff at the University of Utah, as well as the potential of the program. Sproule has set herself, along with the team, some ambitious goals. These include further developing her personal sense of competition, winning the PAC-12, and making a deep run in the NCAA tournament, where they lost in three straight sets a season prior. In her first three seasons in the program, she and the team haven’t quite reached those heights, and she hopes this year and the extra work she and her teammates have put in will prove to be the difference. 

When competing against the ever-competitive and talent-ridden PAC-12 conference, the Utes need consistency and chemistry from their squad. Sproule’s time spent in Canada and growing confidence at a new position — middle blocker — can help spur the Utes to new heights they aspire to achieve under coach Beth Launiere. The Utes will next compete at Utah State, putting on display the talent and dedication that we as fans can become accustomed to this upcoming season from a team with big yet realistic aspirations. 

 

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@LeifThulin