Barnes’ concentration evident not only in results

Defensive specialist Lauren Barnes worked extremely hard to improve her game for this volleyball season.

Lauren Barnes serves during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Gophers beat Northwestern in all three sets.

Ellen Schmidt

Lauren Barnes serves during the game against the Northwestern Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. The Gophers beat Northwestern in all three sets.

David Mullen

When defensive specialist Lauren Barnes is not watching “Friends” or movies, she’s making her presence felt by the opponents of the Gophers’ volleyball team.

It’s not often that a defensive specialist has such an impact, but Barnes is doing that and more — all while her tongue is sticking out.

“It’s like my form of concentration almost,” Barnes said. “I’ve noticed sometimes when I’m focusing hard in school or taking a test, it’ll just be to the side.”

All jokes aside, Barnes has been as consistent for the Gophers as any player as she is fifth on the team with 166 digs and 15th in the Big Ten with 19 service aces, which is two more than her total in the 2017-2018 season.

In order to achieve these feats and to improve her game throughout the offseason, Barnes said she had to work tirelessly to improve certain parts of her game. This included focusing on staying still while making defensive reads and adjusting her service motion.

“A huge change I’ve made is just being stopped,” Barnes said. “Even if I’m stopped and make a wrong read, I can still react faster than if I was moving.”

Staying still while reading the defense has been her “biggest upgrade” this season, but she said it was difficult making the adjustment at first. “It was hard [making the adjustment], but it’s become easier now that I’ve seen the results and how much it’s helped,” she said.

Serving-wise, Barnes has gone from having some small inefficiencies in her form to being 15th in the Big Ten in service aces. “We always say work in a straight line and that’s something I always struggled with,” Barnes said. “Going in a straight line and getting all of my power and concentration going one way was a huge thing to fix during the offseason.”

Head coach Hugh McCutcheon acknowledged Barnes’ ability to work hard and her continued improvements, but says that is part of the culture of Minnesota volleyball. “She practices hard and is trying to make changes,” McCutcheon said. “Part of the culture here is you gotta be prepared to learn and make changes to improve … certainly Barnes is another product of that.”

On top of being open to change and growth, one of Barnes’ non-tangibles is her ability to bring everyone together.

Sophomore setter Sara Nielsen has been playing volleyball with Barnes since high school. She said Barnes’ biggest strength is her connections with her teammates.

“When I’m struggling, she finds a way to bring me up. When I’m doing well she finds a way to celebrate,” Nielsen said. “She just connects well with people and brings the best out of people.”

Barnes attributes her chemistry with her teammates to their off-court relationships. “If you’re close to them or really know who they are, you’ll know how to communicate to them,” Barnes said. She added that knowing each teammate helps the team as a whole.

As Barnes continues to march through the season you can guarantee that her tongue will still be out as the Gophers grind their way through Big Ten play.