Freshman Lauren Barnes helps Gophers’ youth movement with defense

The defensive specialist ranks fourth on the team in digs with 109.

Henry Hughes

While freshman Stephanie Samedy has dazzled many with her kill totals this season, another freshman starter has shined on defense.

Defensive specialist Lauren Barnes enters the second week of Big Ten play fourth on her team in both digs with 109, and aces with seven.

“[Barnes] is doing a heck of a job,” said head coach Hugh McCutcheon. “Her defense and her passing has helped us a ton.”

Barnes comes from Naperville, Illinois, where she was team captain of her Benet Academy volleyball team.

“I did not come [to Minnesota] expecting anything,” Barnes said. “I knew that there was definitely a possibility [to start]. If I worked hard enough, then I could possibly see some playing time.”

Off the court, academics played a major role in Barnes choosing to attend the University of Minnesota. In high school, Barnes was on the honor roll in every semester she attended. The freshman said she chose Minnesota partially for the Carlson School of Management.

In terms of transitioning into the university, Barnes seems pleased so far.

“It’s been going great, I love it,” Barnes said. “The girls are all so welcoming, they help me on the court and off the court.”

Barnes said that time management and staying on top of everything have been the biggest challenges for her during the adjustment to becoming a student athlete.

“Being able to get all of my schoolwork done before I travel,” Barnes said. “Or talking with teachers and having makeup quizzes or taking them ahead of time [have been difficult].”

Barnes has started in all 15 matches for Minnesota this season as its defensive specialist. In a matchup against Michigan earlier this year, she tallied 12 digs along with a service ace to power the Gophers to a four-set victory.

Senior middle blocker Molly Lohman said she felt the significant amount of playing time has not phased the freshman.

“I think she has embraced it really well,” Lohman said. “I think with her competitive edge it makes it so she is ready for anything.”

Barnes slams her hands on the floor during matches to help motivate her teammates, showing her competitive edge.

With one redshirt freshman and three freshmen starters, the future for the Gophers volleyball team appears bright.

“I think that just having such a huge freshman class, and just being able to take them in and show them what it is all about is super exciting, so that they can continue that tradition on,” Lohman said.

Barnes said she approves of how this year’s team has played.

“We have a very good team right now,” Barnes said. “We’re jelling well together, so I am excited to see what more we can do.” 

With several other players her age on the team, Barnes remains hopeful for the future.

“As for our class, we gel together very well and have a lot of talent, I’m excited to see what we can put together,” Barnes said.

Jack White contributed to this report.