Face of the program


UK’s Lauren Rapp attempts the kill against Michigan State at Memorial Coliseum on Friday, Dec. 4, 2009. Rapp let the team with 14 kills to help the Cats defeat the Spartans in the first round of NCAA tournament play. Photo by Scott Hannigan

In August, UK volleyball began their season searching for an image, an identity, a face that fans could identify with this year’s team.

Knowing former UK stars like Sarah Rumely and Sarah Mendoza would never again be walking out of the tunnel at Memorial Coliseum in the blue and white, the 2010 edition of the Cats needed a new face that represented the tenacity and the heart that they bring with them every time they take the court.

Now, as the No. 16 Cats (4-3) enter the heart of their season and approach the start of Southeastern Conference play, the team believes they have found that face on the six-foot-three frame of senior Lauren Rapp.

“I try to be a leader in every game and motivate my teammates,” Rapp said. “It’s not something that comes easily to me but I work hard to be a leader on this team.”

In this past weekend’s Kentucky Classic tournament at Memorial Coliseum, Rapp led UK to victory in all three of its matches, against Miami (OH), South Florida and Ohio State. Her stellar performance throughout the entire weekend helped the Cats keep the tournament title at home in Lexington and earned her tournament MVP honors.

“We all played well throughout the tournament,” Rapp said, “so being named MVP was very unexpected. Many of us deserved the honor and I certainly couldn’t have been named MVP without the help of my teammates.”

In her prolific career at UK, Rapp has earned herself quite a bit of hardware. As a freshman, she earned SEC All-Freshmen team honors, and in her sophomore and junior years, she received a spot on the All-SEC second team. Additionally, she has been an SEC Weekly Award winner four times in her career at UK, and going into this season was chosen for the preseason All-SEC first team.

But Rapp’s most valuable asset to the team is her leadership. Coming off a tough five-set loss on Tuesday night at Cincinnati, Rapp and her fellow seniors know it is up to them to keep the team focused and hungry with the UK Invitational coming this weekend. The invitational will bring three quality teams to Lexington in Virginia Commonwealth University, Florida State and Kansas State.

UK is one of the most inexperienced teams in the top 25—Rapp and Blaire Hiler are the only two seniors—and most of the leadership burden will fall on Rapp. As the Cats progress through their season, Rapp will continue to be a leader, and as she has throughout her entire career, she will keep her eyes on the goals her team set at the beginning of the season, rather than focusing on personal achievements.

“Of course our goal as a team is to win the SEC,” Rapp said. “But my own goal for the team is for us to play to our full potential in every game, including starting stronger in our matches. We have already begun to grow as a team and my goal for us is to continue to grow throughout this season.”