Lauren Whyte’s love of volleyball is evident by the way she talks about the game.
When the junior discusses the team she captains, she talks of a passion and an obsession for the court – traits that have made her one of GW’s top players during her three years as a Colonial.
She has an intensely competitive drive and a streak of focus that roars forth on the court.
“I feel that if I go out and be really competitive, then someone else is going to see that and it’s just going to feed through the team,” Whyte said. “It’s always great to have 14 other girls there that have your back but are also stepping on your heels the whole time to make sure you’re doing your job.”
An outside hitter, Whyte’s job is to be the most consistent hitter on the team, earning the most sets. The Colonials depend on her offensively, looking to Whyte as a consistent source of points. It’s a job she performs well.
Her freshman year, she was named to the A-10 All Rookie Team. Last season, Whyte led the Atlantic 10 in points (536.5) and kills (488), earning recognition on the A-10 All-Conference Second Team. Through GW’s six straight victories this year, Whyte’s continued to be a force for the Colonials on the court, recording 41 kills in the team’s opening weekend alone.
Whyte said she never focuses on her personal statistics. One of GW’s three captains, along with fellow juniors MacKenzie Knox and Candace Silva-Martin, she’s focused purely on her team. Succeed as a team, fail as a team, Whyte believes, and it’s a mantra that took on even more importance this year when the Colonials found themselves under new head coach Amanda Ault. GW’s three captains were suddenly the true veterans, leading a team faced with new leadership.
“I’ve had that experience. I’ve had three years where I’ve played with different people, now I’m on my second coach, I’ve had a lot of experience to kind of take it all in,” Whyte said. “When coach Ault came in the spring, no one had any idea of what to expect, and even into the fall, so it was nice to have the veterans that people could kind of look toward for guidance.”
GW is undefeated through the beginning of its season, barreling through six straight matches. Last weekend, the Colonials steamrolled their way through the GW Invitational, taking the tournament title without dropping a single set. Whyte says the reason for the team’s success has much to do with Ault, identifying the new head coach and her staff as the change the program needed after a 2010 season that saw the team drop its last eight games.
Important, too, are the veteran leaders on the court. While Whyte leads by example, setting a standard with her success, she said she knows that being a leader is more than just personal statistics.
“I think, for all of us, it’s just to be there as leaders on and off the court. That’s helping out, everyone,” Whyte said. “Making sure that everybody’s staying on task, doing their jobs and just kind of being encouraging to them and creating a competitive environment where everyone can perform their best and not be afraid and let loose.”
And as Whyte and her team begin to turn their focus from non-conference opponents to their challenging Atlantic 10 foes, she’s confident the team’s imposing start and its equally strong leadership will prepare it well for A-10 play.
“As a leader, it shows that we’re doing something right,” Whyte said. “We’re far from where we need to be, we’re far from where we’re going to be, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.”
After all, she won’t accept anything less.