While the best players in any sport have a way of making their craft look effortless to fans, the hard work it takes to get themselves to that point is no secret. Top athletes are fueled by some sort of inner-fire, a motivation they harness to push themselves to the top of their game. Some chase individual greatness, others seek to prove the nay-sayers wrong.
For Dayton volleyball senior Lauren Bruns, it comes down to one simple idea: hating to lose.
“I’m super competitive,” said Bruns. That competitive spirit has shown so far this year in remarkable fashion.
Bruns is coming off her fourth Atlantic 10 Player of the Week award of the season. Over that two-game stretch, she recorded a whopping 40 kills, translating to a 5.00 kills/set mark. When the Flyers faced off against Davidson this past Friday, Bruns showed no signs of slowing up. The outside hitter from Versailles, Ohio posted a .406 hitting percentage with a match-high 17 kills.
“My teammates are a huge part of [my performance],” said Bruns. “Today I made an error and the first people who had my back were my teammates…that team dynamic is huge. I also think my mental toughness has come a long way since freshmen year…but my teammates have been super supportive.”
The senior is leading the squad with 284 kills on the season thus far with 309 points on the year. She has been a pivotal part of a team that is winners of their last seven games, including three straight conference victories.
“This is good momentum going into Sunday against VCU,” said Bruns. “I know this team is really excited.”
While Bruns’ competitive spirit has driven her to potential conference Player of the Year status, it has also been a key part of her leadership. With only five upperclassmen on the squad, she recognizes that there is never time to take a break from being a leader, whether she’s on the court in the heat of the game or taking a breather on the bench.
“I would say that I’m very vocal in the aspect that I’m super competitive,” said Bruns. “I always try to be the one that’s talking from the bench and talking on the floor. I also try to lead by example, especially because we have a lot of freshmen out there. I want to make sure they’re getting their confidence; an ‘If she’s doing it, then I can do it too’ kind of a thing.”
While the senior outside hitter has played an impactful role in her team’s success so far this season, her leadership and performance alike have been years in the making. Her current dominance is both a product of her inner strengths as well as her hard work. Head coach Tim Horsmon can attest to that better than anyone, having watched Bruns’ grow over the course of her collegiate career.
“She’s a great kid,” said Horsmon. “She’s about the right things; she’s always been a great character kid, she’s always had a great work ethic. You can coach her. She’s probably tougher on herself than [the coaching staff] ever will be. She’s just super competitive.”
Horsmon discussed Bruns’ growth over time as both athlete and leader.
“I think if you look at the progression and how she’s grown over her four years, it’s really neat to see how every year she’s gotten better and better. Now, I think she can be talked about as one of the top outside hitters in terms of attack in the country…she’s worked really hard to get to this point.”
As the team heads into a rivalry matchup against VCU on Sunday sporting their seven-game winning streak, Bruns, in true competitive fashion, is focused on what she and the team can do better despite recent success.
“Limiting errors; that’s something we have to focus on every day,” said Bruns. “Playing clean, playing together…knowing we have each other’s backs and being the best teammates that we can possibly be.”
The season’s future looks bright for the Dayton volleyball squad, and Bruns is determined to keep it that way.
Photos courtesy of Christian Cubacub.