Last season, Lauren Plum did it all. From leading the nation in assists (13.26 assists per set) to earning the American Volleyball Coaches Association and Volleyball Magazine All-America First Team honors, there wasn’t an accolade that Plum left unturned. Now a senior, the all-time assists leader at the University of Oregon is adjusting to new hitters and new teammates.
For Plum, this is simply a transition year. As a setter, losing key hitters like Alaina Bergsma and Katherine Fischer hasn’t been easy and it’s affected the team as a whole. But Plum has remained focused and confident in both herself and the team, understanding this process will take some time.
“We lost a lot,” Plum said. “A lot of the girls last year were extremely disciplined, worked extremely hard and we’ve had a little bit of a problem with those things this year. Every single person that started last year has had to pick it up and take on way bigger roles to help out the newcomers and figure out who’s going to play well in what situations.”
“Any time you change from year to year, it’s a big adjustment,” head coach Jim Moore said. “I think the reason we had the success is because we had a player (Alaina Bergsma) on the right side that becomes the national player of the year. Her biggest skill was having the ability to get her feet to the ball. Lauren’s greatest skill is being able to throw the ball back from almost anywhere on the court, so when you have that combination, that was easy for Lauren.”
In the past three years, Plum’s role was to connect the dots, essentially serving as the glue for her team. The Ducks would go as far as Plum went and, more often than not, that was good enough. This season however, Plum has taken on a much heavier role — one she embraces day in and day out.
“It has put me at a spot where I need to go 100 percent every day, so those people that don’t feel comfortable starting yet can feel comfortable,” Plum said. “I really like the pressure and it’s been good for me and everyone.”
But things haven’t all been smooth for Plum amid this transition. While the added workload has helped reignite motivation, there has been some obvious frustration in her play. Following a dream season for both the Ducks and Plum, this was expected in a lot of ways.
“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Plum said. “But I can only really point to myself. For this whole season, I’ve been looking at myself and seeing what I can do to help everyone else out and I’ve put a lot more pressure on myself this year.”
In regard to her role, Plum doesn’t think it has necessarily changed but does think it’s different. Plum still believes that being a consistent leader on the floor is her number-one priority and she continues to pursue that mindset.
“I just think my (role) has been a little different,” Plum said. “I want to be super consistent every game, kind of the steady rock that never changes. I need to come out playing my best every night and when I do that, it’s a lot easier for other people to succeed.”
Plum is currently inactive due to a right foot injury and in some ways it has been a good breather for the senior setter. The Ducks are currently ranked No. 22 in the country heading into the belly of Pac-12 play and for Plum, it has been a time of re-evaluation and focus. Plum firmly believes that she will come back stronger from this injury, and for the Ducks, that’s great news.
“Hopefully it won’t be too much of a transition from sitting out, however long, to getting back in,” Plum said. “I’m really excited to come back and work really hard to get back. I think anything that isn’t going to kick me out for the whole season is going to make me a lot stronger.”