From Sidelines to Headlines, Persistence Pays Off for Hagan

Oct. 16, 2009


Lauren Hagan catapults off one foot and meets the set at the top of her leap in one flowing movement. Her right arm swings through the ball in rhythm, sending a seeing-eye drive past two helpless Colorado blockers and just inside the opposite corner.

Point Kansas. A huge grin erupts on Hagan’s face as she joins her teammates in the middle of the court. A year ago, this scene might have seemed almost impossible. Hagan was a freshman trying to adjust to the speed of the college game. She wasn’t having much luck.

“It took a long time,” Hagan, an outside hitter, said. “I remember being shocked. Not being able to see the ball when it went past me. It was a big adjustment.”

Adjusting to the pace of the game took long enough that Hagan watched all but six of Kansas’ 110 sets last season from the bench. She didn’t register any kills or blocks. All of which makes her metamorphosis from benchwarmer to key contributor all the more impressive.

Hagan has already played 51 sets this season for Kansas, starting eight of the Jayhawks’ 17 matches for coach Ray Bechard. She is fourth on the team in kills with 73 and third in blocks with 31. Hagan’s physicality on the right side is something Kansas missed last year, Bechard said.

Her roommate, junior Karina Garlington, has no doubt what’s behind Hagan’s transformation from an overwhelmed freshman to a breakout sophomore. Turns out that while her teammates were getting the minutes on the court, Hagan was making sure she was prepared once she got an opportunity to make an impact.

“She just worked her butt off in the gym,” Garlington said. “She was always the person who would come in when she could to get extra reps. She just had a really good attitude.”

That attitude and a work ethic to match helped Hagan climb the Jayhawks’ depth chart throughout spring practices and during two-a-days this fall. But with so little actual court experience under her belt, it would have been a stretch to say the kind of impact Hagan has had so far was likely or even possible.

“I think it’s a little bit of a surprise,” Bechard said. “I think if you would have asked her, she wouldn’t have thought her role would be this prominent.”

Maybe not, but Hagan has no plans to loosen her grasp on her newfound court time. Bechard said she is just starting to meld her physical talents with the specific skills and timing needed to excel at the next level. True to form, Hagan isn’t satisfied with the progress she’s made. The truth is there is always more work to do.

“It’s been my goal ever since I was in middle school to play at a big Division I school,” Hagan said. “The fact that I’m here means a lot to me. I try to work everyday to be on that floor.”

– written by media relations student assistant, Andrew Wiebe