She might not draw the most attention in the room, but she’s determined to make an impact on the court.
Listed at 5-foot-4, true freshman Lara Caraway is adapting to a new home and is transitioning into a nationally recognized volleyball program. Both things are out of the ordinary for Caraway, but she is embracing the changes.
Before stepping foot on campus, Caraway was not used to attending classes with other students because she was home schooled in the Mars Area School District in Mars, Pa. She also wasn’t used to being a member of the No. 1 volleyball team in the country either.
But now, times are changing and Caraway is excited about the opportunities that she has. Even though things are different, she enjoys the new experiences.
“It’s really exciting, my club high school team [was] never really this intense, the game’s a whole lot faster,” the Penn State defensive specialist said. “But I love every minute of it and I enjoy getting better every day.”
Coach Russ Rose said interaction questions that typically surround home schooled kids don’t apply in Caraway’s case. During warm ups, she is usually seen with a smile on her face talking to her teammates or participating in drills with the coaches.
Her performance is not going under the radar, either.
“Lara’s a tough kid,” coach Russ Rose said. “She’s a very competitive kid, she’s hard on herself, and I think she contributes a real positive work ethic. She goes hard and I think that’s one of the important things about sports is you can’t control the outcome, you control how hard you go. Lara is a good example of somebody that goes hard.”
The 2011 first team All-State honoree has only played in 11 sets so far this season, but she has made her time on the court count. Caraway usually is substituted into matches to serve and has tallied two service aces on the year. She ranks fifth on the squad with .18 aces per set.
Caraway is also one of three players on the team with an even service ace to error ratio or better of players that have recorded at least one ace. Even though she isn’t seeing significant playing time, she still wants to continue to improve and is happy to see some playing time.
“Everyone has expectations for themselves,” Caraway said. “My expectations are just to work hard every day in practice and then I get to go in. I’m really excited I get to go in, that’s awesome.”
Her teammates embrace the fact that she can come into matches and give them a few moments to catch a breather. Of the 15 matches the Lions have played this season, Caraway has appeared in eight of them and has recorded four digs.
Even though everything doesn’t always show up in the stat sheet, the Lions say that they can rely on Caraway when she is on the court.
“She gives people a break and when she comes in she does a great job,” sophomore setter Micha Hancock said. “She gets digs, she makes plays and that’s what we need. I think she’s doing a great job. She’s steady. Every time we need her, she’s there pretty much.”