All-Area Volleyball POY: Centennial's Lauren Cloyd

All-Area Volleyball POY: Centennial's Lauren Cloyd

CHAMPAIGN — Lauren Cloyd has learned when is a good time to say never.


Had the Centennial senior stuck with her first impression of volleyball, she would have never:

— played for a middle school state championship team;

— played for four high school varsity teams that all won at least 30 matches;

— played for the state’s third-place Class 3A team as a senior;

— earned a full-ride scholarship to continue playing volleyball at Rutgers University;

— received Player of the Year honors on the 35th News-Gazette All-Area volleyball team. She was a narrow choice over the area’s other two premier players, her teammates Kara Johnson and Rachel Jones.

Cloyd’s education has been a good one.

It all began — and almost ended — for Cloyd in 2003.

“In third grade I went to a Central volleyball camp and hated it,” she said. “I wanted to quit after the first day.”

Her mom, Pam, had other ideas.

“My mom forced me to at least finish the camp,” Lauren Cloyd said, “but I was not very happy about it.

“I told my mom I would never play volleyball ever again.”

Her self-imposed exile ended in 2006, thanks to a persuasive coach who was also her science teacher. Lauren Cloyd was one of the students in Stan Bergman’s class at Jefferson Middle School in sixth grade.

As Cloyd remembers it, “he was trying to get a team together, and in order for him to leave me alone I agreed to play,” she said.

The last laugh belonged to Lauren Cloyd.

“For some reason, the team never actually played,” she said.

Cloyd was plenty active in youth sports. She started playing soccer as a 5-year-old, and by age 9, the goalkeeper had joined what was then known as the Little Illini Soccer Club.

She took up basketball as a second-grader and showed sufficient potential that Stu Meacham added her to his Illini Swish AAU roster when she was in fifth grade.

“I’ve been playing (basketball) ever since,” she said.

Volleyball was a different story. When Cloyd entered seventh grade, Bergman remained persistent.

“He pretty much dragged me into the gym on the day of tryouts and put me on the team because I was tall,” said Cloyd, who stood 6-foot in middle school.

It was a sport she hadn’t played since the camp four years earlier. Not surprisingly, the seventh-grade Cloyd didn’t play much for Jefferson. She recognized that she got the playing time she deserved.

“Compared to my teammates, who had been playing since they were like 5, I was terrible,” Cloyd said. “I was horrible at the fundamentals.”

Bergman was convinced it was a matter of time before Cloyd would be an impact player. However, he wasn’t yet ready to classify her as a Division I recruit.

“At that point, you never know who will be on top,” he said.

Cloyd had the conditioning from basketball, he reasoned, and, “she had been in soccer, so her footwork was good. It was a good mix between those sports. Athletically, she is so gifted that she adapted to the game quickly.”

Speeding up the transition was Cloyd’s decision to join the Bloomington-based Illini Elite club team. In her first year, following her seventh-grade season, she was immediately promoted to the club’s top 13-and-under team.

Her quick progression even surprised Bergman, who coached Jefferson’s eighth-grade team to a state championship. That year, Cloyd was a starting middle hitter.

“She had gotten better by leaps and bounds,” Bergman said. “In her eighth-grade year, she was playing like a sophomore would be on JV.

“The mistakes were experienced-based, like how to read a blocker or how to read a hitter. When you’re playing like a JV member — like a lot of our kids were that year as eighth-graders — and progressing through club, and every year getting a little bit better, you’re always taking a step up.”

And now?

“She is extremely ready for the college experience,” Bergman said.

Cloyd committed to two varsity sports while at Centennial, following up with the fall volleyball season by joining the girls’ basketball team for the winter. She will be a four-year letter winner in each sport.

“What impresses me most about her is that she plays basketball still,” volleyball teammate Rachel Jones said. “In middle school, Lauren, Lindsay (Rogan) and Libby (Cocagne) and I did both sports, but us three stopped playing to get better at volleyball while she continued to get better at both.

“She’s an athletic and a great player. She’s become really good at the sport.”

Though Lauren Cloyd continued to also work in club volleyball, she believes there’s still room for growth.

“It has always been hard going from volleyball to basketball because the sports are so different,” Lauren Cloyd said. “I think basketball made me tougher and helped me develop good stamina.

“Focusing on volleyball for 12 months straight, it is very exciting to think how much I will be able to improve not having to get out of volleyball mode and into basketball mode.”

A News-Gazette All-Stater, Cloyd benefited from the time she devoted to club volleyball.

“She developed a fast, hard snap on the ball,” Bergman said. “She hits it faster and gets it past them (blockers). How fast she hit on the ball made her unstoppable on the slide.”

When Cloyd was the hitter of choice for the Chargers, her teammates were confident.

“Whenever she got set, I knew the play was about to be over and the point was going to be ours,” senior outside hitter Kara Johnson said. “She moves with the setter really well and is always able to get kills wherever she was placed on the net.”

Even as a ninth-grader, however, Cloyd wasn’t sure what direction her sporting future would take.

“I knew I wanted to try and play something in college, but I wasn’t sure which sport I liked better,” she said.

It didn’t take long before she recognized which sport others considered her best.

“My first (recruiting) letter was from the Wisconsin volleyball coach after I attended their team camp with Centennial at the beginning of my freshman year,” Cloyd said.

Cloyd soon had an abundance of other suitors.

Besides visiting Rutgers, she also visited Xavier, Duke, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, North Carolina State, Cincinnati and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. All were interested in her as a volleyball player.

“Rutgers was nothing like I imagined,” Lauren Cloyd said. “I thought it was going to be all jammed up in the middle of a big, dirty city, but it was not at all. It is really spread out. The campus is very clean, and there are hills and trees around.”

If it sounds like she was sold immediately, that would be the wrong impression.

“During the recruiting process, I never thought I would be caught in the middle of so many different schools,” Cloyd said. “It also does not help that I am extremely indecisive.

“I have a hard time deciding what to eat for lunch on a daily basis, let alone where I want to go to college for four years of my life.”

Ultimately, she selected the school in Piscataway, N.J.

“The recruiting process is one of the most stressful things ever,” Cloyd said. “You get letters and emails almost every day from coaches. Some coaches are more creative than others.

“Rutgers was always very creative with their letters. So was Arkansas. Colgate recruited me for basketball, and they were also very creative with the letters they sent.”

Her interest in animal science — with the goal of eventually becoming a rescue veterinarian — helped Cloyd solidify her choice of Rutgers.

“I really like the academic performance of the school and the overall feel of the school,” she said.

As an added bonus, within weeks of signing her national letter of intent, Rutgers was admitted to the Big Ten Conference. It will take effect when Cloyd is a sophomore. At some point in her career, there will be a homecoming and she will play in Huff Hall against the Illini.

“Playing in the Big Ten has always been a dream of mine,” she said. “The Big Ten is a strong conference and to be able to play against the type of players that go to those schools is an honor.”

In imagining what it will be like stepping on the court at Huff, Cloyd harkened back to her third-grade year.

“I never thought I would ever come back to Champaign and play,” she said. “I also never thought I would be playing against Morgan Leach (from Indiana) again, who is an amazing player from my high school. Being able to come back to my hometown will be awesome.”

Imagine where Lauren Cloyd would be today had Pam Cloyd coddled her daughter back in 2003 and said soothingly, “Sure, Honey. You don’t need to go back to that volleyball camp any more.”

Lauren Cloyd now believes her volleyball career will end after college.

“Unless I am asked to play in the Olympics,” she said.

If she has learned nothing else in the past decade, it’s to not say that will never happen.

Volleyball Players of the Year
2012    Lauren Cloyd    Centennial    MH
2011    Mariah Coleman    Heritage    MH
2010    Morgan Leach    Centennial    MH
2009    Cori Harris    Centennial    OH
2008    Alexis Braghini    Centennial    MH
2007    Lucy Coleman    Monticello    MH
2006    Ali Omahen    Schlarman    S
2005    Kylie McCulley    Clinton    OH
2004    Kylie McCulley    Clinton    OH
2003    Amber McKean    CPCI    MH
2002    Melissa David    Champaign Central    MH
2001    Carly Hill    Monticello    OH
2000    Carly Hill    Monticello    OH
1999    Julie Leman    Champaign Central    S
1998    Jenn Rousey    Champaign Central    OH
1997    Kate Hill    Monticello    OH
1996    Heather Wilson    Rantoul    S
1995    Amanda Ennis    Champaign Central    OH
1994    Sigele Overstreet    Champaign Central    OH
1993    Lori Greenwood    Champaign Central    OH
1992    Missy Erixon    Tuscola    S
1991    Missy Erixon    Tuscola    S
1990    Melanie Ward    Prairie Central    MH
1989    Jane Prasse    Hooopeston-East Lynn    MH
1988    Mindy Thompson    Shiloh    OH

Volleyball Coaches of the Year
2012    Stan Bergman    Centennial
2011    Stan Bergman    Centennial

First Team
NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.    COACH
Lizzy Barnard    Tri-County    Jr.    5-9    OH    Drew Robertson
Lauren Cloyd    Centennial    Sr.    6-2    MH    Stan Bergman
Elise Dahlke    Mahomet-Seymour    Sr.    5-11    OH    Ron Hoppe
Laura Gross    Schlarman Academy    So.    5-11    MH/S    Heidi Crane
Morgan Hickman    Clinton    Sr.    5-6    S    Tracey Huls Mathis
Kara Johnson    Centennial    Sr.    5-10    OH    Stan Bergman
Rachel Jones    Centennial    Sr.    6-0    MH    Stan Bergman
Amber Meyer    Tri-County    Sr.    5-7    S    Drew Robertson
Lexi Wallen    St. Thomas More    So.    5-11    OH    Brad Dalton
Jaelyn Westfield    Champaign Central    Sr.    6-0    MH    Evan Hook

Second Team
NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.    COACH
Kayla Cowan    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Sr.    5-6    S    Kristin Oyer
ChaQuera Cross    Rantoul    Sr.    5-8    L    Jay Bennett
Rowan Crozier    DeLand-Weldon    Jr.    5-11    MH    Jay Schatz
Kat Grimes    Watseka    Sr.    5-4    S    Krista Pufahl
Kaitlyn Hunt    Monticello    Sr.    5-2    L    Emilie Walk
Jordan Marganski    Schlarman Academy    Jr.    5-10    MH/S    Heidi Crane                                                                                           Mia McDonald    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-5    S    Evan Hook
Shelby Simmons    St. Joseph-Ogden    Jr.    5-6    OH    Abby McDonald
Kyla Skinner    Tri-County    Sr.    5-8    OH    Drew Robertson
Sydney Stone    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    5-5    S    Abby McDonald

Special mention
NAME    SCHOOL    YR.    HT.    POS.
Taylor Bauer    Watseka    So.    5-10    OH
Abby Bergman    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-11    MH
Ella Black    Schlarman Academy    Sr.    5-7    OH
Maddie Bounds    Prairie Central    Jr.    6-0    MH
Nicholle Brown    St. Joseph-Ogden    Sr.    5-9    MH
Kailyn Demith    Champaign Central    Sr.    5-6    OH
Taylor Filkin    Clinton    So.    6-1    MH
Emily Gewirtz    Judah Christian    Jr.    5-4    L
Karly Goodman    Arthur-Lovington    Jr.    5-10    MH
Hillary Hines    Cissna Park    Jr.    5-10    MH
Sabrina Hinton    Bement    Sr.    5-6    MH
Emma Hoyer    Urbana Uni High    Sr.    6-0    MH
Cate Hummel    Urbana    Sr.    5-5    L
Kailey Kleinert    Paxton-Buckley-Loda    Jr.    5-10    MH
Maddie LeGrande    Champaign Central    Fr.    6-0    OH
Alexus Jimson-Miller    Danville    Sr.    5-6    OH
Mikayla Jones    DeLand-Weldon    Sr.    5-10    MH
Louisette Lukusa    St. Thomas More    Jr.    5-10    MH
Devin McFadden    Hoopeston Area    Sr.    5-6    S
Lauren McKenzie    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-4    S
Lindsay Rogan    Centennial    Sr.    5-11    L
Lauren Russell    LeRoy    Sr.    5-8    S
Stephanie Sanderson    Heritage    Sr.    5-5    OH
Kaitie Shaw    Westville    Sr.    5-10    OH
Alex Stupek    Argenta-Oreana    Sr.    5-8    OH
Ashley Tabb    Arthur-Lovington    Sr.    5-4    L
Hannah Wascher    Rantoul    Sr.    6-1    MH
Maranda Witty    Bismarck-Henning    Sr.    5-5    OH
Sirena Woo    Mahomet-Seymour    Jr.    5-4    L
Emily Zelhart    Blue Ridge    So.    5-6    S

Honorable mention
(School-by-school listing)

ARCOLA — Taylor Edwards, So., 5-7, OH.
ARGENTA-OREANA — Alexa Jones, Jr., 6-1, MH.
ARMSTRONG-POTOMAC — Rachel Miles, Jr., 5-10, OH; Erika Sieberns, Sr., 6-0, MH; Morgan Zindars, Jr., 5-6, S.
ARTHUR-LOVINGTON — Julia Cohan, Sr., 5-8, MH; Sherelle Coller, Jr., 5-5, S.
ARTHUR OKAW CHRISTIAN — Alysha Beachy, Sr., 5-7, MH; Natalie Chesnut, Sr., 5-3, S.
ATWOOD-HAMMOND — Chantell Bonham, Jr., 5-9, OH; Kaitie Wildman, Jr., 5-7, OH.
BEMENT — Taylor Wegrich, Jr., 5-6, OH.
BISMARCK-HENNING — Taylor Ellis, Sr., 5-4, S; Morgan Gerbsch, Sr., 5-5, L.
BLUE RIDGE — Gabby Pearl, So., 6-1, MH.
CENTENNIAL — Libby Cocagne, Sr., 5-9, OH; Paulina Nottingham, Sr., 5-6, S; Kelsey Olion, Sr., 5-10, OH; Allie Shannon, Sr., 6-2, MH; Maddie Weldon, Sr., 5-7, S.
CERRO GORDO — Makenzie Wagoner, Jr., 5-8, MH.
CHAMPAIGN CENTRAL — Lexi Schweighart, Sr., 5-10, MH; Katie Sloniger, So., 5-4, L; Dana Westfield, Fr., 6-1, OH.
CHRISMAN — Brett Bishop, Sr., 5-10, MH.
CHRIST LUTHERAN — Andrea DeBella, Jr., 5-10, MH; Olivia Janssen, Sr., 4-10, S.
CISSNA PARK — Gabbi Jennings, Sr., 5-8, OH; Amanda Montgomery, Jr., 5-7, OH; Kaitlyn Redeker, Sr., 5-8, L.
CLINTON — Bailey Walker, Sr., 5-7, OH.
DANVILLE — Jordan Ogle, Sr., 5-5, S.
DeLAND-WELDON — Alexis Dick, Jr., 5-10, OH.
FIRST BAPTIST — Rachel Wells, Sr., 5-8, MH.
FISHER — Carli Clifton, Sr., 5-6, S/OH.
GEORGETOWN-RIDGE FARM — Kelsey Buckman, So., 5-3, OH/S.
GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY — Katie Massey, Sr., 6-1, MH.
HERITAGE — Taylor Wienke, Jr., 5-8, S.
HOOPESTON AREA — Cayla Davis, Sr., 5-8, MB.
IROQUOIS WEST — Courtney Conrad, Sr., 5-5, S/OH; Taylor Cultra, So., 5-10, MH.
JUDAH CHRISTIAN — Kylie Beaumont, Fr., 5-7, S; Brooke Childers, So., 5-7, OH.
LeROY — AshLynn Cowles, Jr., 5-8, OH.
MAHOMET-SEYMOUR — Mason Moore, So., 5-5, S.
MILFORD — Kinsey Knauth, Sr., 5-5, S; Alissa Totheroh, So., 5-4, L.
MONTICELLO — Elise Pontious, Sr., 5-9, S; Lizzie Rupkey, Fr., 5-5, DS.
OAKWOOD — Peyton Jones, So., 6-0, MH.
PAXTON-BUCKLEY-LODA — Kandace Hofer, Sr., 5-6, OH; Kortnie Schroeder, Sr., 5-3, OH; Amanda Ypya, Sr., 5-6, MH.
PRAIRIE CENTRAL — Laura Crane, Jr., 6-0, MH; Katie Kupferschmid, Jr., 5-8, L; Shania Scurlock, Jr., 5-8, S.
RANTOUL — Allison Carver, Jr., 6-0, MH; Taylor Wood, Sr., 5-8, S.
RIDGEVIEW — Taylor Williams, Sr., 5-5, OH.
SALT FORK — Kalyn Learnard, So., 5-6, OH; Emilie McFadden, Jr., 5-8, OH.
SCHLARMAN ACADEMY— Janelle Marion, Jr., 5-7, OH.
SHILOH — Lexie Minott, Sr., 5-10, MH; Lauren Moses, Jr., 6-0, MH.
ST. JOSEPH-OGDEN — Kenzie James, Sr., 5-4, L.
ST. THOMAS MORE — Brooke Plotner, Sr., 5-4, L.
SULLIVAN — Taylor Wallis, Sr., 5-5, S.
TRI-COUNTY — Heidi Dague, So., 5-11, MH; Autumn Meyer, Sr., 5-3, L; Abby Smith, Jr., 5-11, MH.
TUSCOLA — Mackenzie Seip, Sr., 5-10, OH.
UNITY — McKenzie Martin, Jr., 5-9, OH.
URBANA — Alayna Jackson, Jr., 5-10, MH.
URBANA UNI HIGH — Kaila Simpson, Sr., 5-10, MH; Juliana Trach, Sr., 5-6, S.
VILLA GROVE — Katie Douglas, Sr., 5-8, MH.
WATSEKA — Natalie Castonguay, So., 5-3, L; Hayley Gray, Jr., 6-0, MH; Allison Kaper, Sr., 6-0, MH.
WESTVILLE — Mikayla Rolinitis, Jr., 5-5, L.

Final N-G rankings
TEAM (previous)    W-L
1. Centennial (1)    37-5
2. Tri-County (2)    36-3
3. Watseka (4)    32-4
4. Schlarman (3)    29-6
5. Arthur-Lovington (7)    26-6
6. St. Thomas More (5)    21-15
7. Bismarck-H. (6)    19-7
8. Heritage (8)    21-16
9. Mahomet-S. (9)    21-13
10. Central (10)    28-8


Categories (3):Prep Sports, Volleyball, Sports