Photo by Bob Gries
PM grad to be inducted into collegiate hall of fame
When coach Michael Strano recruited Lauren Halverson, a 2009 Patchogue-Medford graduate, to play on his volleyball team up at Mount Saint Mary College, he saw potential. Since taking over the program in 2003, Strano’s No. 1 focus was bringing the team to the next level. “I knew Lauren was a solid player that could definitely help me do that,” he said in an interview last week. “But I didn’t know she’d be great.”
Over the next four years, Halverson would prove she was more than just a “solid” player, consistently wowing her coach with broken record after broken record. Next month, Halverson will join four other student-athlete alumni in the Mount Saint Mary College Hall of Fame Class of 2017.
Originally recruited as a hitter, Halverson fell in love with the game as a seventh-grader. “It was always a passion. I was playing other sports at the time, but then I stopped just to focus on volleyball,” she said. “I love how it’s a really close-knit team. You’re all on the court together; you have to pump each other up. It’s a lot closer than soccer, where you’re spread out on the entire field.”
Halverson says being a student-athlete at ‘The Mount,’ which the college is affectionately known as, made a huge impact on her as a freshman. “I was nervous and scared to be there, but it was a way to instantly make friends,” she said. “And the older girls showed you around but also motivated you to do well to stay on the team.”
In her sophomore year at the Mount, the team lost a senior setter. “As hard as I tried, I didn’t get a setter to come,” Strano said. “Lauren had the closest skill set. So we just went with it.” On par with a quarterback in football, setters run the offense — and Halverson excelled in the position. “She ended her career with the most ever — 2,775 assists. And she did it in three years,” Strano said, noting she had broken a school record.
“[Setting] is a powerful position on the court since you’re in control of a lot of the plays,” Halverson explained. “I was always a pretty shy person, but that position allowed me to bring out my personality on the court,” she said.
Named Rookie of the Year in 2009, Halverson also set an NCAA record for consecutive points served (20) against Bard College. Over the next three years, she would go on to be consistently named Skyline Conference Player of the Week, and rank high nationally in aces per set. In 2012, Halverson was named Skyline Conference Player of the Year, a first for the school.
Despite all of the honors, it is the defining moments on the court Halverson cherishes most. For two years in a row, the Knights never lost a regular season match. Both years they stumbled in the finals, in what Strano remembers to be close matches. “It was really tough for the girls, but we broke through in 2012 and won the whole thing,” he said.
Halverson’s senior year, 2012 marked the first and only time the school won the Skyline Conference and made it to the NCAA Championships. It’s her proudest moment, since it came down to the wire with a match against NYU PolyTech. “Poly was our rival throughout my entire volleyball career,” she said. “We had a devastating loss to them in my junior year, so winning against them in my senior year was a culmination of all our hard work. It’s a moment I will never forget.”
Strano nominated Halverson for the hall of fame this year, the first year she’s eligible after graduating five years ago. “It was established in 2012 as a way to recognize the standout athletes that have come through our programs. And it gives current athletes something to strive for,” he said.
Now living back in Patchogue, Halverson teaches special education mathematics at Babylon High School and just started coaching the girls varsity volleyball team there. “I am extremely competitive, so I try to bring that drive to them also,” she said on her new coaching gig. “I remember sometimes being down after a loss, and just wanting to give up. So I try to motivate them for next time. When I was a kid I didn’t want to be screamed at on the court, so I try to be positive and pump them up.” Halverson credits her own support team for her success. “My parents never missed a game growing up, and still don’t miss a game to watch me coach,” she said. “And I appreciate [Coach Strano] every day. He motivated us all and challenged us. He’s the one who moved me over to setter, which is where I learned that there is no substitute for hard work and determination.”
Strano hasn’t yet seen Halverson coach, but thinks she’s a great fit due to her academic background as an educator. “She knows how to win. But her leadership her senior year was no nonsense,” Strano said. “With a younger team, being a teacher also helps. Education is the most important part and winning is second. That’s what makes a great coach.”
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