As the opposing outside hitter rises up for a grand spike, the Pomona-Pitzer volleyball defense remains static. Once the ball is struck, Lauren Asato PO ’23 flies across the court in a full stretch and saves the possession, allowing her offense to produce a counterattack.
Having a season for the record books, the veteran libero specialist reached the 1000 career dig mark within two seasons, earning herself SCIAC defensive player of the year and AVCA DIII All-West Region Honors.
“I didn’t expect [to receive the awards] but it really was a team effort,” Asato said. “I can’t dig the ball if the blockers weren’t there or if everyone was split apart. But it is nice to have the recognition especially since so many other players deserved the award; other people serving my position on different teams even congratulated me.”
Before becoming a standout star for P-P, Asato began her career at seven years old at sports clinics and later joined club volleyball at the age of 11. While developing her skills, she explained how progressing to more advanced levels of play was regarded as a norm around her community in Hawaii.
“Each transition up to the next level felt natural,” she said. “It was like what everyone was doing, going from club to high school volleyball. Then naturally, when you’re playing club at these tournaments, there’s college coaches there watching you.”
As she moved from level to level, the primary reason behind her continued engagement in the sport was rooted in the team aspect of the game.
“[Volleyball] has taught me a lot about making friends, and so I think I really would have missed that if I hadn’t gone to this next level in college,” Asato said.
After feeling a sense of this tight-knit community in the P-P program during Admitted Students Day, she knew she would choose this collegiate program over her other options.
“Even now, we’ve only been here for less than three months and it feels like we’ve known each other for so long,” she said. “It’s crazy how much you have in common but you also don’t, but volleyball unifies us in some way. It works out every year because we just get great girls who are also great players.”
Although she doesn’t tend to focus on numbers and stats, Asato said making the feat of 1000 digs “reflected her efforts in an impressive year for P-P,” especially coming off missing a season.
Moreover, this achievement reflects the passion she has about playing defense.
“It is very rewarding to dig a ball that people might have thought was supposed to go down, or like a really hard hit,” she said. “It feels just as good as how a blocker must feel blocking the ball.”
Moreover, Asato expressed her enthusiasm for studying the nuances of the defensive side of the floor.
“You have to read the defense specifically and always know where the blockers are, moving based on how they’re situated,” she said. “Then you have to locate which direction the hitter is facing and read their tendencies. I think that’s one thing that people obviously can’t see [liberos] doing, but it’s definitely very important.”
“Then you have to locate which direction the hitter is facing and read their tendencies. I think that’s one thing that people obviously can’t see [liberos] doing, but it’s definitely very important.” — Lauren Asato PO ’23
Looking towards her senior season in 2022, Asato is looking to replicate the success she has had thus far in her career.
“I’m not necessarily thinking about where I’m going with [volleyball] after [college] and I don’t know if I will,” Asato said. “I’m content with where the sport has taken me thus far and I want to just contribute as much as I can next season.”
The Sagehens had one of their best seasons in years, finishing second behind CMS in SCIAC with a record of 13-3 in conference and 17-10 overall. Their season ended following a 3-0 loss to Chapman in the SCIAC postseason semifinal.