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The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

How does Marquette replace Lauren Van Kleunen?

Photo by Alex DeBuhr
Graduate student forward Lauren Van Kleunen (42) attempts a free-throw in Marquette women’s basketball’s 59-45 win over Butler Dec. 5.

For the first time in six years, there is no No. 42 on the Marquette women’s basketball roster. There is one less Ohio native wearing blue and gold and her 6-foot-2 absence is tangible throughout the Al McGuire Center.

Lauren Van Kleunen is gone.

Upon receiving her diploma from Marquette, the forward took her rebounding skills to Spain, where she currently plays at the professional level for Club Baloncesto Leganés.

“She’s (Van Kleunen) doing awesome. She checks in and we talk about once a week,” Marquette women’s soccer head coach Megan Duffy said. “She impacted our program so much, I consider her a true leader of Marquette in our women’s program. I’m so happy for her and her next steps.”

Despite Van Kleunen playing the game 4,380 miles away, her influence is active on Marquette’s court.

“She’s left a legacy here: the way she handled difficult situations, the way she took the younger players under her wing,” Duffy said. “I know Jordan (King) and Chloe (Marotta) and Liza (Karlen) always talk about how they learned a lot from Lauren, so she’ll be close to us even though she’s across the world.”

Van Kleunen was at Marquette before Duffy arrived in to Milwaukee alongside assistant coach Justine Raterman.

Both Duffy and Raterman shared how deeply they will miss Van Kleunen, but neither coach is worried about how her absence will impact team dynamics.

“In a situation like losing Lauren to graduation, it’s not like these girls haven’t been working. They’re ready to step up,” Raterman said. “Lauren was here for a long time. We loved coaching her. She means a lot to this university and this program, but, at the same time, we’re preparing those next girls, we’re talking about leadership every single day.”

There’s not one specific player destined to fill LVK’s role of leadership, there’s a team of them.

“Leadership is going to be by committee, which is how our program has always been. We don’t have somebody that’s scoring the ball 25 or 30 points a game. Or if one person goes down, we’re not necessarily going to lose,” Raterman said. “That’s not how we’re built, it’s everybody playing a part.”

Raterman has noticed how the players fully embrace this identity.

“There’s a shift in the energy from everybody and I wouldn’t say that it dropped because Lauren Van Kleunen is gone. But rather the energy has risen because we know she’s a big role that we’re missing,” sophomore forward Makiyah Williams said. “Everybody just knows that their role has to be bigger than what it was last year.”

Junior forward Liza Karlen has recognized her bigger role this season.

“I’ve always kind of prided myself on doing whatever the team needs. Obviously, Lauren was a big rebounder for us, so just stepping up, taking more of a role in that and doing whatever my team needs,” Karlen said.

Junior Julianna Okosun is another forward who plans on bringing an elevated presence to the court.

“I guarded her (Van Kleunen) every single day in practice last season. I got blocked by her. I got her hook shot. She scored on me every single day,” Okosun said. “Through that, she taught me a lot of stuff. As a team, we’re ready to build on that legacy Lauren created.”

A large part of building upon that legacy starts with Marquette’s next-player up policy.

“Lauren was a huge part of our team both in terms of leadership and on the court. But we have a really strong post group, and I think that’s always been our strength,” Okosun said. “If someone goes down, there’s always that next person up to come in and fill that spot.”

Establishing and successfully executing the next-man-up strategy doesn’t start on the court.

“First, we started from the mental side, making sure like everybody mentally locked in,” Williams said. “Starting with the little things first by not focusing on the big pictures, rather we are going day by day to get every step done that we need to get done.”

LVK’s leadership will impact the women’s team far beyond this coming season, but the show must go on.

“It’s huge in our program to continue to have that success no matter who is left,” Raterman said. “It’s about the pieces who are here and continuing to build on that each and every day.”

This article was written by Ava Mares. She can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @avamaresMU.

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