Whenever Lipscomb outside hitter Lauren Ford leaps and connects with the ball to make a kill that is usually the sound the crowd hears.
Standing only 5-foot-11, the question is where does the power come from? The answer is simple. Weights and more weights.
“There are reasons why she gets so many kills,” Lipscomb coach Brandon Rosenthal said. “She understands the game. She has a tremendous amount of power.
“When people do get an arm or hand on one of her kill shots it is not one of those balls which can be dug fairly easy. And the great part about it is she is getting more powerful. She is way more powerful in her serve now than she was last year. I would imagine she will become one of the top servers in the conference.”
Ford and her volleyball teammates work out a prescribed number of times per week in the weight room. Will Osburn, assistant director of strength and conditioning, oversees the workouts for the volleyball team. He often finds Ford spending extra time on strength development.
“She is very unique,” Osburn said. “One, she works extremely hard, but she also works extremely smart. She is a very bright girl. She has a lot of knowledge and she is continually learning how to get better.
“We have worked together for the past couple of years and she has really been able to tweak some things to stay healthy and stay injury-free. That is one of her biggest goals. And one of my biggest goals is to keep her playing and keep her healthy. That extra work does that.”
Ford loves weight training and she has no doubts that the extra work pays off. She often will go into the weight room for 30 minutes after class just to get in one more work out.
“I tell the players to come see me to get some individual work done,” Osburn said. “Lauren is the most consistent. Sometimes we have to say `no, you’ve done enough’. She is learning more and more under our guidance how to choose the exercises that are right for her.”
Rosenthal stresses that Ford is unique in her drive in the weight room.
“She likes working out when she is tired,” Rosenthal said. “She has been like that since she came in here as a freshman. That is how she is wired.”
Ford, a member of the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team last season, has been a major contributor to the Lady Bisons from the start.
“Physically, I’ve done a lot to train my body to hit hard and get the most power that I can,” Ford said. “I’ve worked a lot on the weights.
“But it is also a matter of energy and wanting to get it done. When I play with more emotion is when I feel like I get more power.”
Ford is known as much for her mental approach to the game as she is her physical skills. Her ability to visualize and anticipate what is happening on the court is an aspect of her game she has developed through experience.
“I think it has to come from experience, but I am still learning for sure,” Ford said. “Taking in everything on the court is a good thing for me, but it is also a bad thing.
“When I see too much coming at me I’m not able to process each thing and focus on one thing. Sometimes I’m just thinking too much. I try to understand where things are going so I can play ahead of the play.”
Ford, after dealing with a slight “sophomore slump”, earned her second Tennessee Sports Writers Association Player of the Week Award for the season. In three wins for the Lady Bisons last week she made 44 kills and 29 digs.
Rosenthal wants to see her continue to be more aggressive in the way she attacks the ball, especially as opposing teams put more pressure on her. As a freshman she was somewhat of a secret. But now there is more than enough video of her in game situations and coaches have had time to analyze her strengths and weaknesses.
“There is a tendency to back off a little bit when you get blocked,” Rosenthal said. “But we want Lauren to be even more aggressive when that happens.
“She can let the miss on an aggressive shot affect her. She has to put that away forever.”
She is second on the team with 350 kills and third in digs with 234. She has seven matches where she has posted double-doubles this season. She has also added 23 service aces.
“What we are starting to see is Lauren Ford is a complete player,” Rosenthal said. “She is scoring points serving. She is scoring points blocking and attacking.
“But the big part for her over the next couple of years is defense. She has worked very hard at it.
Ford is acclimating herself to the speed of the game, but she has to understand some of the nuances and trust her movements. Sometimes she either hesitates or moves to fast and then gets into a bad position.”
She wants to put up the stats, but she wants to be someone who can be counted on in all aspects of the game.
“I want to be a consistent player,” Ford said. “It doesn’t benefit the team at all for me to have one good game and then have a bad one.
Ford doesn’t think she is close to reaching the peak of her career. She already feels the pressure to get better every year because of the talent level of the recruits Rosenthal brings in.
“I expect myself to keep getting better,” Ford said. “Brandon is recruiting the right people. They are pushing the rest of the team.
“That also makes me work harder. We have to work to earn our spots and that keeps everybody working hard.”
Ford has been playing all six rotations, one of the few players on the team that can do that. She has taken a physical beating as a result.
Rosenthal thought that Ford came back for the fall in peak condition. Osburn agreed that it was evident that Ford had been working out on a regular basis during the summer.
“She is not going to be tapped out,” Osburn said. “She can go as far as she wants to push it.”
Ford plans to continue to push it. She didn’t peak as a club and high school player until her senior year. She expects her senior year at Lipscomb will be her best. Rosenthal thinks Ford might move up her game another notch or two sooner than that.
“I am predicting we will see more upward movement from Lauren by late next season,” Rosenthal said. “She is a student of the game. She is so analytical.
“There are things she is doing today that she wasn’t doing at the beginning of this year. She has become tougher. She is in a good spot physically as well as mentally.”
Written by Mark McGee, Senior Publisher/Director of Media Relations for Athletics.