Lauren Van Orden cheered on her hometown team, the Denver Broncos, on Sunday as quarterback Tim Tebow almost orchestrated a comeback victory against their division rivals, the San Diego Chargers.
Just as a quarterback engineers the team’s offense, senior setter Van Orden’s role on the UCLA volleyball team is to set up plays for her team. She is essentially the quarterback on the volleyball court.
“Lauren’s a leader out there,” senior libero Lainey Gera said. “She leads this team through being confident and displaying that with her actions.”
“She’s good in that role,” coach Mike Sealy said. “She’s a glaring presence in the big wins we had all season and all last year. She’s a big reason for our success.”
Van Orden began playing volleyball at the early age of 6 years, following the footsteps of her older sister Kirsten, who also played volleyball.
“I’ve always been super competitive, especially with my brother and sister,” Van Orden said. “Even if it was just swimming laps or just joking around.”
Now, a year away from graduating from UCLA, Van Orden wants to use her competitiveness to help the Bruins win.
“I think she’s intense,” Sealy said. “She has a really strong personality. We were just talking about her being able to hone that in to be able to lead this team to where we need to go.”
Van Orden transferred to UCLA from San Diego State after her sophomore year, seeking success at a bigger athletic program. And because of her ability and her years of experience as a setter, she is at the top position in the Bruins’ lineup.
The shining moment for Van Orden was her game against then-No. 1 Stanford in the 2010-2011 season.
“We just had this incredible feeling on the court,” Van Orden said. “I remember looking at Lainey (Gera), and it was game point for us, and I realized that we could actually win this.”
“It was our first big win as a program,” Sealy said. “She came from setting at a smaller program to the then-Pac-10, which is an amazing conference, playing against the No. 1 team. It boosted her conference
As well as Van Orden plays, volleyball is a team sport, and her teammates need to trust her as well as each other.
“She has to have a connection with each player on the team,” Gera said. “She has to have it with the passers, the middles and the outsides. She’s the key to putting the team together. She needs to have a true relationship with every one of us.”
Van Orden believes the chemistry on the team is better than in years past. That is why this final year at UCLA is so special for her. She also savors the moments she spends in front of the crowd at UCLA.
“The atmosphere’s so incredible,” Van Orden said. “I come out 40 minutes before the match, and the whole student section is filled.
They’re all cheering and they’re wearing our shirts.”
Though she is still unsure about what she wants to do after graduation, Van Orden is focusing on just one thing for now.
“We want to play and win for the pride of our school.”