For Belmont senior outside hitter Lauren Walsh, competition comes naturally.
“I was enrolled in all sorts of sports as soon as I learned how to walk,” she said.
Starting with soccer and switching to softball at an early age, Walsh decided to try something new.
“I had a family friend who encouraged me to come out to a volleyball clinic and I just enjoyed it a lot more than I had in previous sports, so I stuck with it,” she said.
Her athleticism and competitive spirit runs in the family.
John Walsh, her father, played quarterback for Brigham Young University in the early 90’s and was even selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the 1995 NFL Draft.
Her uncle? An Olympic athlete for the U.S. men’s soccer team and her sister Reagan currently plays Division I softball at the University of Florida.
With an athletic family like Walsh’s, the 5’11’’ volleyballer from Torrance, California was destined to compete.
“Not playing sports was not really an option in my family,” she said. “We had to be doing something to keep us busy and it really worked to our benefit because we all were able to go to college with our talent.”
And it was the talent and drive that landed Walsh with a mix of titles and accolades at South High School.
While at South, she was named All-League Most Valuable Player twice, earned an All- California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section Team Award and named to the Daily Breeze All-Area Girls Volleyball Team as a four-year varsity starter and team captain.
After high school, Walsh decided to take her talents out east to Nashville, Tennessee and compete for the Bruins.
“I think Belmont is a very tight-knit community and with the athletics community, especially, I feel like you know everyone and it’s not that you can just come together as athletes, but you can come together as Christian athletes, for the most part, and so we share that in common here,” Walsh said.
And when arriving at Belmont as a freshman, Walsh immediately felt those values and spirit surrounding her.
“My freshman year, I can just remember being surrounded by a group of girls that can speak wisdom into my life as an athlete, but also my personal life with the decisions I make and with a Christian perspective that I value,” she said.
Holding those values ever-present in her personal life, Walsh also became a dominant force on the court.
In her collegiate debut on Aug. 30, 2019, she recorded six kills and five digs for the Bruins.
A week later, she got her first collegiate double-double in a game against DePaul University with 11 kills and 12 digs.
Off to a great start, Walsh wasted no time in becoming a key player at Belmont.
“I got a few starts and had a good freshman season, for the most part,” she said. “Then sophomore year hit, and we had the Covid pandemic, which kind of put a damper on my career a little bit.”
After a jumbled 2020 season, which regularly saw games cancelled and rescheduled, Walsh was back to the top of her game once junior year rolled around.
The outside put up impressive numbers for her team as she recorded 152 kills, 72 digs, four aces and three solo blocks in her 72 sets played during her junior season.
Although Walsh was originally recruited by former head coach Tony Howell, her new coach Katelyn Harrison feels blessed that she can always depend on her to come up clutch in tough situations.
“She’s a good mentor and teammate to her friends. She’s really likeable and all that is going to leave a legacy,” Harrison said. “We played Georgia State a few weeks ago and when we needed a kill, we set her to win the match.”
Just as Harrison foresaw, in a close game against Georgia State University, Walsh recorded the game-winning kill to defeat the Panthers in the fifth set.
“We needed a kill to win and who do we go after? We go to Lauren. What does Lauren do? She gets us the kill. And so, I think that in those moments, she’s shown that she can score,” Harrison said.
“She’s been great. She says the right things in practice, she leads by example and she works really hard.”
Now with senior year in full swing, the volleyball captain and marketing major is looking at what’s next after the season comes to a close.
“I’m currently in an internship at a marketing sector and I kind of want to expand on that and try something new at a new firm and, ideally, transition into a full-time job,” she said.
But before starting her career, Walsh has a few other things on her radar.
“Part of me really wants to do some traveling and I love skiing. I haven’t been able to go skiing in a few years,” she said. “My hope is that once my schedule opens up, I can make time to just do spontaneous things and go see the U.S.”
That said, Walsh still has a few things to take care of prior to her Belmont departure.
“I’m really looking forward to soaking in every day—the good, the bad, the ugly, the great—And mostly, just really investing in the relationships that I have on the team so that even though I won’t be wearing the jersey next year, I still have those friendships that will hopefully last.”
PHOTO Lauren Walsh jumps to attack the ball against Lipscomb University on Aug. 30. Ben Burton/Belmont Vision
This article was written by A.J. Wuest