Paolini Learning in More Ways Than One
Manager, Media Relations and Publications
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Sept. 12, 2009) – When Lauren Paolini (Ann Arbor, Mich.) joined the U.S. Women’s National Team in the spring months of 2008, she put on hold her education at the University of Texas for the chance of a lifetime to compete for a spot on Team USA’s 2008 Olympic Games roster.
Now, Paolini has put her training with the National Team on hold to pursue other lifetime goals back at the Austin school.
But 18 months ago, Paolini, along with current Longhorns Juliann Faucette and Destinee Hooker, trained at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs along with other athletes attempting to earn a coveted Olympic Team roster spot. She participated in a three-week, eight-match tour of China in March and April of last year, contributing a total of 11 points during the training trip. Paolini was called to service again to participate in the 2008 Pan American Cup in which she recorded four kills on seven errorless attempts in a reserve role.
Although she was not one of the 12 players selected to travel to Beijing for the Olympics in which the U.S. won the silver medal, Paolini looks back on the training experience in spring and summer of 2008 as beneficial to her career.
“I definitely don't regret taking a semester off school to train,” Paolini said. “It was a great experience and I met some amazing people.”
Paolini has used that training experience to her benefit. She was named American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America First-Team during her senior season last fall and helped Texas reach the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Paolini averaged 3.26 points, 2.63 kills, 0.86 blocks, 0.53 digs and 0.14 aces. She ranked second in the NCAA with a .478 hitting efficiency, which also set a new school single season record.
After finishing her spring semester earlier this year, Paolini returned to the U.S. Women’s National Team to continue her training at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, the new training headquarters for both the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams. She was part of a 12-player delegation to Egypt in April as part of a USOC Goodwill Tour, and she responded with 23 points in two matches versus the Egyptian National Team. Last month, Paolini was part of the USA roster competing in the third preliminary weekend of the FIVB World Grand Prix at Thailand. In limited action, she contributed a kill in her only attempt against Russia on Aug. 14 while playing a total of three sets in two of the three weekend matches.
(NOTE: To read Lauren Paolini's July 27 blog for TexasSports.com regarding training with the U.S. Women's National Team, click here.)
After returning from Thailand, Paolini immediately switched gears and is taking an approved hiatus from the National Team. She is now wearing three different hats – a student assistant coach for the Texas volleyball program, a student completing the last stages of her undergraduate degree and an intern within a hospital in the Austin area.
“Due to the fact that I was training last spring with the national team and took off a semester from school, I pushed my graduation date back a semester,” Paolini said. “So my plan now is to graduate this semester with a degree in biology and pre-dental. I'm currently enrolled in seven hours at UT and am also interning at the Dell Children's Hospital in the pediatric craniofacial unit. It has actually worked out great to have this extra semester to be able to fit in an internship as well as get some coaching experience.”
As far as being on the sidelines and not wearing the burnt orange and white volleyball jersey, Paolini is excited about her role as a student coach for the Longhorns.
“I love being able to help out and give back to a program I really care about,” Paolini said. “I've had such a great experience here at Texas that to be able to prolong my time here with this team in this program has been so great! I haven't really taken on the coaching role of enforcer. I prefer to act more as a role model for the younger girls and try to help them transition to college volleyball and the systems we use here at Texas. The team has already started off the season very well and I can't wait to see where we end up in December!”
Through the first two weekends of the collegiate volleyball season, Texas is 5-0 and ranked second in the Bison/AVCA Division I Coaches’ Top 25 Poll. The early schedule has already witnessed victories over No. 6 Hawaii, No. 13 California, No. 16 Saint Louis, No. 24 San Diego and Long Beach State. The Longhorns host the Italian National A2 Team twice this past weekend with matches on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12 at Austin, and Texas won both matches.
By seeing the action from a coach’s perspective, Paolini is seeing future value in her current role as a student coach.
“I feel like this experience (as a student assistant coach) could really help me with my own game by getting to see the game from a completely different perspective.”