Where Are They Now? Q&A With Former Volleyball Standout Lauren DiSabatino

DISAB2 2For the fourth in our series on former Wilmington University student-athletes, I caught up with volleyball standout Lauren DiSabatino.

Helping the Wildcats transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II eligibility, DiSabatino was part of the 2002 team that captured an NAIA Regional Championship, as well as the 2004 team, which captured the 2004 Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference Tournament Championship, thereby earning the first-ever qualification for the NCAA Division II Northeast Tournament.

DiSabatino was a 2004 All-CACC Honorable Mention selection, as well as a member of the 2004 CACC All-Tournament Team. She’s now coaching the varsity team at Padua Academy, an all-girls high school in Wilmington, getting student-athletes ready for the next level and continuing to win championships.

Q: Since graduating from Wilmington in 2005, what steps have you taken to get to where you are today?

A: After graduating, I decided to further my career by going back to school. I enrolled at West Chester University for the fall semester and began a three-year program to obtain my teacher’s certification in health and physical education. I was also asked to coach the Padua Academy freshman volleyball team that fall. I coached the freshman team through the 2005–2006 season while attending West Chester full-time. At the end of the first year, I was promoted to JV head coach and varsity assistant. I remained in this position for the next seven years. In 2008, I graduated from West Chester with my teacher’s certification, and Padua hired me as a full-time health and physical education teacher.

When the varsity head coaching position became available in 2012, I was selected out of many candidates and began the climb to bring Padua its first volleyball state championship. At this time, utilizing my sports management degree from WilmU, I added the role of associate athletic director at Padua to my résumé. In 2012, my first year, we beat Ursuline Academy in the fifth set to bring home the school’s first state championship in the sport of volleyball. Then our 2013 team followed up with an undefeated season and repeated as state champs! I also was awarded Coach of the Year honors.

DiSab 2Q: Since leaving Wilmington, how have you stayed involved with the game of volleyball?

A: Besides coaching at Padua, I play when I can. In 2010, former WilmU volleyball player Aleesa DegliObizzi and I started a team for the New Castle County Women’s Rec League. We were joined by a few other former Wildcats as well: Erin McNulty, Jess Phipps Weller, Kate Starr Fillingame, Megan O’Neill and Chantel Daunno Brown. We were sponsored by Big Fish and have been playing together for five years.

Three years ago I teamed up with Joe Brown of USFT Sports to start a summer team camp for Delaware schools. Additionally, this past year I coached club volleyball for Premier Volleyball of Delaware, a new club created by Mary Pat Kwoka, my former high school coach at St. Elizabeth’s, and now coach with our rival, Archmere Academy.

Q: What is your fondest memory of playing volleyball here at Wilmington University?

A: We had so many fun times, hanging out in the lounge, causing trouble in the training room, the “Whirlpool Gang” with (our athletic trainer). But my fondest memory would have to be when we beat Goldey-Beacom in the semifinal round of the 2002 NAIA Regional playoffs. It was a close game and came down to one very, very short serve. We advanced to the finals to beat Nyack 3-0 to make it to the NAIA National Tournament in Point Loma, Calif.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your college teammates?

A: Absolutely. When I was being recruited in 2001, I came to Wilmington for my official visit. While I was there I sat in on a practice. There were two freshmen who came up to me and started asking questions. Of course, being the shy high school kid, I was not very receptive to them and thought that this was going to be a disaster. I was wrong. One of the players, Aleesa DegliObizzi, became my best friend. The other player I keep in contact with is Erin McNulty. I’ve attended all of the alumni games at WilmU.

Q: What’s more satisfying: competing in college athletics and capturing a conference championship as a player, or coaching your team to a Delaware state championship?

A: They’re equally satisfying, but on different levels. As a player, it’s a great feeling to know that the hours at practice, training in the weight room, and traveling all lead to the ultimate goal, winning a conference title. As a coach, it’s amazing to share my knowledge and ability with young players and see their commitment to meet the ultimate goal, winning a state title. It’s come full circle. Coaching is a huge responsibility and to see all the years of hard work and dedication from my former teammates, coaches, and, of course my parents, come together in the huddle at the Bob Carpenter Center during the last time out, when the score is 13-8 in the fifth set of the state championship, in that moment I knew exactly what to do and my players knew it. That was the most satisfying moment of my life.

Q: We just celebrated 10 years as an NCAA Division II Athletic Department and 10 years as a member of the NCAA with the CACC. Our department and the CACC have seen a lot of change and success in those 10 years, but what was the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II like as a student-athlete? Was it any different than just going out on the court and playing volleyball?

A: I don’t think there was much transition for us as athletes. It was exciting to be able to play in Division II. But, as a collegiate athlete, you just go out there every day and do your job, which is to play. The transition to NCAA Division II did bring about new competition, which elevated our game.

Q: If you could come back and play one more season of college volleyball here at Wilmington, what would you do differently?

A: I enjoyed every minute of playing volleyball at Wilmington University. I don’t think there is much I would change about any of that. Now, though, as a health and physical education teacher and coach, I better understand the role that fitness and conditioning play in the all-around performance of an athlete. In hindsight, I would have put more effort into my off-court training and conditioning. WU

—Dan Lauletta