Jackson, Tenn. - 11/16/2001 -
By KARY BOOHER
Back in high school, Lauren Hayden had her heart set on going to Murray State and why not? She was an all-everything back in Belleville, Ill., and the appeal of playing for an NCAA Division I volleyball team seemed to be a fitting way to continue her career.
Funny, she ended up at Union University. And funny how time flies.
When Hayden’s four-year career comes to an end — perhaps this weekend in the NAIA Region 11 tournament in Georgetown, Ky., perhaps in two weeks at the national tournament in Palm Beach, Fla. — Hayden will go out as the NAIA career record-holder in kills. She has 3,353 of them.
As her coach, Brian Dunn, put it, “That’s like being the all-time leader in scoring in basketball. It’s phenomenal.
”It appers that way. Hayden’s kills are more than the career records in NCAA Division I (3,043) and Division II (2,676). Gallaudet’s Ronda Jo Miller established the Division III record of 3,579 from 1996-99.
Hayden, though, is low-key about her numbers. The NAIA record, the two TranSouth Conference player of the year awards and two NAIA All-America awards are just part of what’s been four memorable years at Union.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet that it’s my senior year, and this could possibly be the last weekend of my career,” Hayden said. “I know once it’s over it’s going to hit me that I’m not going to be able to play college ball on a competive level. That’s probably going to be pretty upsetting, but I’m kind of glad to move on, too.
“I just think my four years here at Union ... I’ve just gotten so much out of it. I’ve learned so much playing volleyball here and going to school here.”
Union (31-7) is the No. 3 seed in the regional this weekend. The Lady Bulldogs play Pikeville at 8 p.m., and a Union victory propels them into a semifinal showdown against 21st-ranked Lee at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Union has yet to win a region title with Hayden, but this region is up for grabs. On the other side is 11th-ranked Georgetown, Cumberland, Ky. and Travecca. Interestingly, Union has beaten Travecca four times this season but Travecca has beaten Lee, a team that’s beaten Union three times this season. The finals are at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Whatever happens, though, Hayden will have few regrets but none about not going to Murray State. The pressures of D-I volleyball didn’t seem worth setting aside a chance to play in Dunn’s relaxed atmosphere and, at the same time, concentrate on a nursing major.
Besides, Union offered her something other colleges couldn’t. For one, she was able to play volleyball with her older sister, Melissa. Hayden said she also managed to shed her wild teen-age years and evolved into more of a god-fearing, respectable woman ready to tackle the rest of the world.
All that, and she’s had a lot of good times along the way. She was glad to see some of her teammates, seniors Emily VanDam and Sarah Davenport, junior Andrea Darr and freshman Nicole Garber, receive all-TranSouth honors. They’ve been a big part of this, too.
“God has truly blessed me,” Hayden said. “It’s amazing. I can’t believe I’ve gotten all these awards. Half the time I don’t believe in myself. And I really don’t get hung up on stuff like that. Coach tells us about that at the end of the year. Which is great. I don’t want to get a big head. I don’t want my other teammates to think I’m better than them.”
Phone: (731) 661-5027
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