Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor
Freshman opposite hitter and middle blocker Lauren King wasn’t expecting to hear her name called as a part of the starting lineup so early in her VCU career. Once she got a taste of starting at the collegiate level early in the season, she didn’t want to leave it.
“I was like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna stay here. No one is going to take my spot, I’m going to work hard. I’m not gonna waste this opportunity,’” King said.
The Southfield, Michigan, native has been a mainstay in the Rams’ starting lineup and has appeared in 29 sets this season, recording 89 kills and 28 blocks. She logged a season-high, 14-kill performance against Saint Louis on Feb. 5 and a season-high, seven-block match against George Mason on Feb. 1.
King committed to play volleyball at VCU when she was 15 years old. By committing early, she was able to watch the players that came before her.
The team she watched won an Atlantic 10 title in 2017 and led the NCAA in blocks, most recently in 2019.
King said she kept an eye on former players, such as outside hitter Gina Tuzzolo and middle blocker Tori Baldwin, and wanted to play like them.
“I just looked at who was in my position before me and tried to emulate them because VCU has been so successful in the past,” King said. “I really look up to those girls.”
King did her best impression of the dominant outside hitters and middle blockers before her, earning all three A-10 weekly player awards — Player of the Week, Defensive Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week.
King said she didn’t know the A-10 handed the awards out until she won Player of the Week, but the accolade drove her to win the other two. She won the next two in the following two weeks, rounding up the three awards in the first 15 days of her collegiate career.
“I just want to measure myself by how hard I worked and how much muscle I grew and how much I contribute to the team,” King said. “It was never really about the awards. They’re cool, but that’s not why I’m here.”
Head coach Jody Rogers knew King would win the awards, but when she won them, the athlete remained humble, Rogers said.
“I’ve been coaching almost 30 years now,” Rogers said. “She just was well above everybody else.”
Standing at 6 feet, 1 inch, King isn’t the tallest player on the court. Despite this, she said she’s not scared of going against those that are taller than her.
“Whoever’s in front of me, I want to block them,” King said. “I want to beat whoever’s in front of me. I think it’s a really aggressive and competitive mindset. You have to think like a winner — that’s what it comes down to.”
Rogers said King’s confidence comes from being prepared for any moment.
“She prepared herself to be ready to play a big moment, to withstand pressure situations and be comfortable being uncomfortable,” Rogers said.
King plays with a lot of self-belief, which has helped build her confidence, she said. When things aren’t going her way during a match, she talks to herself to get back in rhythm, she said.
“I think it’s really hard to try to dig yourself out of a mental rut in the middle of a game,” King said. “I think we just had that mindset that as long as you do your best and genuinely your best, it’ll be okay. I think that’s kind of how I get myself out of things.”
But for King, adding to the volleyball legacy and culture inside the Stuart C. Siegel Center is something she wants to do.
“The culture that’s been made here,” King said, “I just wanted to be that and add to that.”