Carlini Q&A: "Transition Has Been Different at Each Level"

By Bill Kauffman (bill.kauffman@usav.org) | Oct. 23, 2017, 1:03 p.m. (ET)

Lauren Carlini setting during 2017 Pan Am Cup
Lauren Carlini sets during the 2017 Pan American Cup as she transitions from college to the U.S. Women's National Team. She has now transitioned into her first pro club season in the last month.

Below article is the first in a series of Question/Answer features to get to know the U.S. Women's National Team players.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 23, 2017) – Lauren Carlini (Aurora, Illinois, Instagram, Twitter), who was selected the 2017-18 Sullivan Award winner as best amateur player in the United States in all sports, was a four-time AVCA All-American at the University of Wisconsin and played her first full season with the U.S. Women’s National Team this past summer. Carlini is now making a second transition into her first professional season with Savino Del Bene Scandicci in the Italian Serie A1, one of the top professional leagues in the world. She has led Scandicci to a 2-0 record with wins over 2016-17 Italian League runnerup (Modena) and the 2015-16 European Champions League champion (Casalmaggiore). To watch a replay of the Scandicci-Casalmaggiore match on ESPN3, click here.

Carlini answered a few questions on what it is like for a young player making the transition from college to the national team and competing in her first professional season.

USA Volleyball: How has the transition gone from college at Wisconsin to the U.S. National Team and now to your first professional season?

Lauren Carlini setting at WisconsinLauren Carlini: The transition has been very different at every level. I found the most challenging transition thus far has been from Wisconsin to the USA National Team. The speed of the game and the level of play is something that I am still trying to adapt and adjust to. While it has been definitely tough, I am so grateful to be able to be surrounded by some of the best volleyball players in the world every day in the USA gym. It forces you to be the best version of yourself and to raise your level of play, which has been super fun but challenging at the same time.

So far, the transition from the USA gym into my first pro season has been going pretty smoothly. The speed of play is not quite as fast and I feel that I can see more of the game this way. The only transition that has been somewhat tough is the language barrier at times. During volleyball, I can pick up on the majority of what is trying to be said in huddles when they are speaking in Italian. However, outside of volleyball, not so smooth! Ordering at restaurants has been hard but I'm slowly but surely learning the language!

USAV: What are the main differences between the three different teams/leagues (Wisconsin in NCAA, Team USA in National Team season and Scandicci in Italian League)?

Carlini: Obviously, the personnel of each team is going to be different and everyone has a different style of play. I think the main difference between each team is the type of offense I have ran with each of them. At Wisconsin, we ran a pretty ‘independent’ offense where each player had their own unique tempo, height and speed. Not everyone ran the same speed or plays, each person had what worked for them.

On the USA team, we run a 'USA fast' offense and everyone hits the same ball (relatively). While this definitely simplifies the offense, there is a very small margin for error. I have never run this type of offense before, so this summer was my first time really pushing myself to play at that speed. It is tough to get a hang of, but we believe in this system and how effective it can be against the top teams in the world.

Lastly, with Scandicci, we are attempting to run an offense somewhere in between Wisconsin and USA. With most of the players, we are running a ‘super’ ball which is a slightly higher ball than ‘USA fast.’ There is a good amount of freedom to call plays, switch players routes and manipulate the defense. It has been fun getting use to new players and personalities while juggling the challenge of a language barrier.

USAV: What were some of your reasons for choosing to play for Scandicci in the Italian League for your first pro season?

Carlini: I decided to play for Scandicci for a few reasons. For my first pro season, my priorities were having a great coach and being somewhere where I felt comfortable and safe. After looking at some other teams in Italy and Turkey, I decided on Scandicci first off because of the positive reviews of the incoming coach as well as the strength of the team they were building. Carlo Parisi, my head coach, had worked with Carli Lloyd and a few other national team players during their careers and had nothing but good things to say about him. Scandicci was also signing some older, more experienced players along with some new up-and-coming players and my agent saw this as a strong place to start my career. So far, we have been meshing really well and playing at a high level. I love the balance of this team and the willingness to come into the gym every day and get to work. Can't beat living in Tuscany either! 😉

USAV: What are some of the challenges you have faced in Italy and how have you overcome it?

Carlini: Some of the challenges I have faced have mostly come from the language barrier. I look back now at high school and college and wish I would have kept going with Spanish or Italian classes! My view on speaking Italian is this: I feel like the professional league and team have given me such a great opportunity to be able to play the game I love and live here in Italy, and it is only right to learn their language and immerse myself in their culture. We are here for 7-8 months of the year, so being able to communicate, feel ‘at home’ here, and not feel like this is just a temporary situation is such an important mentality.

Another random challenge that I have had is finding good lunches! A lot of places close during the middle of the day and reopen around dinnertime (7 p.m. here), so it has been hard to find places to eat before practices. There are some bakeries open that serve lunch plates – just have to be careful to avoid looking at the pastries, avert the eyes Lauren!

Other than the language barrier and finding adequate lunches, I have not run into any huge challenges. I already drive like a maniac in the United States, so I fit right in here!

USAV: As a rookie in your first pro season, did you expect to walk into a situation where you would be 2-0 to start the season and becoming a star on a team of young stars on the rise?

Carlini: To me, it does not matter whether or not I am a rookie or I have been playing in this league for 10 years. No matter the situation or my age, I want to win and I want to play the game the right way. No cutting corners, no taking days off, just coming in getting to work, loving what I am doing and being the best possible version of myself every day. Surprisingly, I was not nervous to start the season, just excited. I am so pumped for this team and the possibilities of this season because our mentality is strong and we come into the gym and train hard with a purpose every day.

My teammates make my job SO much easier. I know when we are approaching games, everyone has the scouting report memorized, they are prepared, and simply ready to just do their job. That is the mentality I have taken on as well; make sure I am doing my job well and make everyone around me better. It has been so fun to play with these women and I am looking forward to the rest of the season!

USAV: You have mentioned the language barrier. Your team has players from different countries such as Brazil, Dominican Republic, Sweden and of course Italy? How does the team communicate with so many different languages as the mother tongue?

Carlini: Yes! The language barrier has been tough for sure! With our team having so many foreigners, we conduct most of our meetings, video, and practices in English. On the court between teammates, it is mostly Italian, with a little English if there is extra clarification needed on something. Our head coach, Carlo, has been very accommodating with the language barrier, and even though he gets frustrated with himself and his English, we are grateful that he is even trying at all while we try to learn the language ourselves.

USAV: Off the court, what are some of the things you have enjoyed so far in Italy?

Carlini: Italy is so beautiful and I never realized how sunny it is here in Tuscany all the time! Basically a hilly California. I have really enjoyed just finding my way around, learning my surroundings and finding awesome places to eat. Hannah Tapp and I have a tradition where we go out to dinner at least once a week somewhere near Florence and we have had the BEST experiences so far! That is one thing I really look forward to during the week. I also very much enjoy cooking and here in Italy, ingredients are fresh and pretty healthy so I have been cooking dinner almost every night as well.

On our off days I have been traveling to little towns around Tuscany and have enjoyed looking at historic sites, finding unique places to eat, drink coffee, and maybe enjoy a crostata or 2. 😉

Ciao for now, a dopo.
Lauren