Here is an article from BroncoNationNews.com on SCA alumnus Lauren Ohlinger who is playing volleyball at Boise State University.
BOISE – Lauren Ohlinger is nice – almost too nice according to some close to her.
But the rare attitude in such a competitive sport has served the Boise State senior volleyball player well. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter is a four-year starter, a three-time All-Mountain West player, an AVCA All-Region selection and has the most career aces (119) in Bronco history during the rally scoring era.
Boise State (13-6 overall, 5-3 Mountain West) visits second-place Colorado State (14-5, 7-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday.
“I don’t take this lightly, but she’s the nicest kid that you could be around for four years,” Boise State coach Shawn Garus said. “That kid is a sweetheart of a person.”
(Photo courtesy of Boise State Creative Services)
Ohlinger was so nice that she had a hard time letting schools down during her recruitment out of Scottsdale Christian Academy in Arizona. She was a three-time All-Metro West Conference selection, including being both the Player and Defensive Player of the Year during her junior season. Ohlinger also made the 2019 Prep Volleyball Top-250 Senior Aces list and was a back-to-back state champion with her mother Kim Ohlinger as the head coach.
“She was a highly recruited kid,” said Terri Spann, Ohlinger’s club coach and a former standout and assistant coach at Arizona State. “It was actually kind of funny because as soon as she finished games, all these coaches waited in line to talk to me. I would look at her mom and be like, ‘You’ve got to start telling people that she’s only interested in Division I or a top-20 program. Narrow your list down because I can’t be wasting my time talking to all these schools.’ She gave a lot of people hope.”
Garus was one of them.
He jumped on her well before others did. She had already visited and been offered by her sophomore year. The early investment paid off as she spurned Pac-12 and Big-12 programs like Utah and Baylor to sign with Boise State.
“She was playing at a really high level in high school and her club team was competing for national championships and her role was growing on that team. So she was a pretty special prospect for us, not the type of kid that we’re in the mix with,” Garus said. “It went from, that’s a good prospect to that kid might start as a freshman to that might be the freshman of the year in the conference.”
That’s exactly what happened.
Ohlinger was one of only two Broncos to start all 30 matches on her way to recording 329 kills, 29 aces and 395 points for Mountain West Freshman of the Year honors in 2019.
The next two seasons were also filled with many ups, but they were far from easy.
TUMULTUOUS COUPLE OF YEARS
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of her sophomore season until Feb. 2021. And in between that, Ohlinger learned her mother had Parkinson’s Disease – through a FaceTime call no less.
Kim was officially diagnosed on Nov. 6, 2020, after doctors spent months trying to figure out what was wrong with her. She hadn’t demonstrated any of the usual signs such as shaking, stiffness and difficulty speaking. Kim only noticed something was a bit off because her husband Randy Ohlinger beat her in pickleball, which never happened. She had also just turned 50. According to the National Institute of Aging, only about 5% to 10% experience onset before the age of 50.
“It was definitely hard at first,” Ohlinger said. “They were emotional about it, so I got emotional. When I came home, I got to really learn more about it and see how she was and how she was dealing with it.”
Ohlinger even went to her therapy, which includes occupational, physical and speech. While Parkinson’s has affected her speech and she can’t do things like biking or hiking anymore, Kim still drives and has a positive mentality throughout the whole ordeal.
So it made Ohlinger’s decision to return and stay at Boise State a little easier.
“We never talked about her transferring somewhere closer to home,” Kim said. “I didn’t want her to come home because of me. That would not have been fair to her. This is her time and she’s having a great time in Boise. She loves her team. It makes me happy that she’s happy in Boise.”
But Ohlinger still talks to and almost sees her family daily.
She calls Kim every day to check in and has seen them at nearly every volleyball match this season.
Kim says that just seeing her daughter play has really helped her deal with this condition.
“I love that her family has been available to travel so much,” Garus said. “I’ve seen them in so many games. I think they have seen every gym in our conference at least once. They’ve certainly been to our home games all the time.
“I know it hasn’t been easy for Lauren all the time to know that mom’s struggling with something. But I also love the support that Lauren gets from her family and I wouldn’t want anything different for her.”
Family has always been important to Ohlinger. It was her mom, a former Division I standout at Western Illinois, that got Ohlinger into volleyball in the first place.
Already pushing 6 feet in middle school, it was only natural that Ohlinger was playing basketball. But Kim was the middle school coach and her ride home, so Ohlinger thought she might as well finally give it a try in the sixth grade. The rest is history.
“Oh for sure,” said Ohlinger when asked if volleyball bonded them. “I think that’s definitely something that we’ve always had in common and talk about all the time and be with each other about. Sports in our whole family are super big.”
Her dad played basketball at Northern Arizona and younger brother Ryan, who Garus vividly remembers shooting hoops during her recruiting trip, set the single-game Scottsdale Christian Academy boys basketball scoring record with 45 points. It was on the same night that Ohlinger tied the single-game school kill record in the rally scoring era with 34 in a sweep of Wyoming on Feb. 20, 2021.
LEAVING HER LEGACY
Those types of accolades have been nothing new for Ohlinger during her storied Bronco career.
She broke Cameron Flunder’s (2003-06) school record of 117 aces with four in a four-set win over San Diego State on Oct. 8. And last Saturday, Ohlinger moved within nine kills of fifth all-time at Boise State with 1,232. She is the only member of the top-6 to have played in fewer than 380 sets. Ohlinger is at 352 and counting.
(Photo by Boise State Creative Services)
The Broncos also have better than a .656 winning percentage during her four-year tenure, which included winning the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship for the first time in program history last season. Ohlinger became the first Bronco ever to be named tournament MVP with 38 kills, one service ace, 27 digs and six blocks combined in the three-day event.
Boise State was the lowest seed (sixth) ever to win the MW tournament title and the 24 wins that season tied for the third most all-time in school history. As a result, the Broncos qualified for the NCAA Tournament for just the second time in a straight set loss to BYU.
“It means so much because the last four years have been dedicated to this and everything,” Ohlinger said. “I think just how much I’ve changed character-wise and how I’ve grown as a person, I feel like I’m so different than I was freshman year. I’ve really been out there more. I feel like I used to be a little bit quieter back then, but I feel like I’ve grown into who I am because of how volleyball has helped me.”
However, Ohlinger is not done yet. She and the team still have goals of a Mountain West regular season and defending their tournament titles to get back to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite losing four players, two of who earned All-MW honors, and only having one other senior (Allison Casillas) on the team with her, the Broncos are tied for fourth in the Mountain West standings with still 10 games remaining in the regular season. They have knocked off the likes of Notre Dame this season. While Garus wants to see the Broncos be better on the road in Mountain West play – Boise State is 1-3 – he’s still happy with where they’re at. Boise State is a perfect 7-0 inside of Bronco Gym this season.
Ohlinger has been instrumental in that too. Not only with her play on the court, but by taking younger players like MW Preseason Player of the Year, Paige Bartsch, under her wing and well …. being nice.
“Lauren is not going to look at the freshmen and tell them, ‘Hey you need to pick it up.’ Lauren’s more likely to put her arm around a girl and go, ‘Let me help you see the block a little bit better,’” Garus said. “She’s a little bit more of a mentoring leader. She’s not a mean person.”
Except for in the mornings.
“Lauren will go down in my mind as about the worst morning person I’ve ever been around,” Garus said with a laugh. “She likes her sleep. She doesn’t like to see the sunrise. She’s a great kid, but boy don’t get her too early in the morning.”