Totaling almost 1,400 points, 1,119 kills, and 98 blocks, senior Lauren Sazama of St. Louis is definitely leaving a tough trail to follow for the Gannon University volleyball team.
Sazama started her collegiate career following Gannon’s 13-14 2008 season. Since then, the Knights have reached 20 wins each season — thanks in no small part to Sazama, who was named the NCAA Atlantic Region Player of the Year Tuesday.
Leading the court as the powerful outside hitter early on in her career it was clear that Sazama had found her domain. Looking back on the experience now, she has only one regret. “I should have listened to the coach sooner,” Sazama said referring to coach Matt Darling. “He is always right in the end.”
Sazama found a new family in her team. Her teammates quickly became her new best friends and role models.
“They made it fun to play,” she said. “I’ll miss everything with these girls, the list goes on and on.”
Searching for the perfect school to call home, Sazama fell in love with Gannon the minute she met the team.”Gannon felt like a family,” she said.
“Taking on the real world without them will definitely be a challenge.”
Statistically Sazama’s best year has been her senior year, but she also says it’s been the team’s as well. “We accomplished a goal that was set when I was a freshman— to win the PSAC championship,” Sazama said. “And it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
To finish her career with a championship under her belt was a definite highlight of her Gannon experience, but she can’t pick just one. In the summer of 2010, the Knights traveled to Nicaragua.
“Once in a lifetime experience,” Sazama said, “from speaking Spanish with the kids, to learning how to surf, it was just unbelievable.”
Life as a Knight has been more than a good experience for Sazama; it has been life-changing. The new friends, the goals she has accomplished and the trust from her teammates have pushed her to excel to be the best she can be.
“I didn’t want to let them down,” she said. “Their trust and hard work ethic pushed me to give 100 percent.”
Sazama will be a tough act to follow for future players on the volleyball team at Gannon, but that hasn’t stopped her from lending sage advice to the underclassmen.“Come ready to work,” she said. “Every up and down you go through, in the end is worth it.”
When the Knights take the court in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday against Mercyhurst University at Wheeling, W. Va., Sazama will try to soak in all she can.
“It always feels good going out on top,” Sazama said. “I hope to continue playing competively but if this was my last time, then I am glad it ended with a championship.”