Lauren Barnes; Where are they Now?

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Former Benet Academy girls volleyball player Lauren Barnes is thriving and competing among the best in the country at the University of Wisconsin! Find out more about Lauren’s journey in this Where Are They Now? presented by Advantage Acura.

After making the National Championship game in 2019, Wisconsin women’s volleyball coach Kelly Sheffield needed to replace the team’s starting libero, Benet Academy legend Tiffany Clark. Clark was graduating after an Honorable Mention All-American season at the position. Her fiery competitiveness would be tough to replace for the Badgers, who had taken down top seeded Baylor in the Final 4 before falling to Stanford in the Championship match.

But what better way to replace a star former Benet libero, than with another star former Benet libero? Enter Lauren Barnes, who had transferred from the University of Minnesota before the 2019 season. Barnes had already proven herself as a defensive specialist and was eager to put on the libero red and white of her former Redwing teammate and lead the defensive attack for the Badgers.

Following in Teammates Footsteps

The situation was somewhat similar to the one Barnes found herself in about five years early at Benet Academy. She served as the team’s starting libero as a junior in 2015 while Tiffany Clark was an outside hitter for the sectional champions. As a senior in 2016, Barnes was an All-Conference selection, racking up over 500 digs. She and teammates like Sara Nielsen, Lily Johnson and Veronica Snelling helped the Redwings to another regional championship that fall.

After playing her first two seasons as a defensive specialist at Minnesota in 2017 and 2018, Barnes transferred before the 2019 season to join Wisconsin on their run to the National title game.

Breakout Season

The 2020 season was pushed to the spring of 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but it was worth the wait for the Badgers. The team went 18-1 and was named the #1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Barnes and her teammates made it back to back Final Four appearances after defeating Florida in the regional finals, before falling to Texas in the National Semi-Finals. In her first collegiate season as libero, Lauren was named 2nd Team All-Big Ten and a 2nd Team All-American.

The NCAA granted athletes an extra year of eligibility due to the pandemic and many Wisconsin seniors, including Barnes decided to return for one more season this fall. So far the decision is paying off as the Badgers are currently 17-1 and ranked in the top 5. The team appears poised and hungry to make another deep run once the NCAA tournament tips off in December. Her decision to return also gave Lauren the opportunity to compete against younger sister Caroline, who is playing as a freshman for the University of Illinois.

Throughout her career, Lauren Barnes has shown that she is one of the best defensive volleyball players in the country. And who knows, maybe once she’s graduated she’ll follow Tiffany Clark’s path once again and enter the world of professional volleyball.

For Naperville Sports Weekly, I’m Justin Cornwell.