Lauren Sabbatini takes flight

Balers senior Lauren Sabbatini recently committed to play for Fresno State.

After the 2017 high school season ended, Lauren Sabbatini was on the fence in regards to playing another season of club volleyball. Having received no scholarship offers, the San Benito High senior figured she wasn’t good enough to play at the Division I level—at least not out of high school. However, Sabbatini decided at the last minute to play another season for Vision, the high-profile club based in the South Bay.

That decision turned out to be golden. When Vision’s 18-and-under gold team played at a national club tournament in Colorado in February, Fresno State coach Jonathan Winder saw Sabbatini play. Sabbatini had sent out a previous email to some of the coaches who were scheduled to be in attendance. It was apparent Winder liked what he saw, as he offered Sabbatini a scholarship when she took an unofficial visit to the Fresno State campus on April 5.

Sabbatini said she’ll sign her official letter of intent sometime between now and mid May.

“When they first offered, I was stoked a big school was looking at me,” Sabbatini said. “I had a lot of doubt in myself not thinking I was good enough for that level of play. But I won’t doubt myself again. I know I just have to keep working hard, and good things will happen.”

The 5-foot-11 Sabbatini played outside hitter in high school, and she’ll play the position at Fresno State—at least initially. Sabbatini expects to transition into a back row player, as her passing skills are excellent and her serve-receive improving with each passing year.

“I’m perfectly fine with playing either position,” she said. “I love them both and just want to prove myself at the next level. I think they were looking to be a solid defensive passing team, and I think I can really help with that. Their blocking was the best in the conference, so that will be great for me to practice against.”

Sabbatini spent two days with the Fresno State players, developing a strong rapport and instant connection. That made Sabbatini’s decision easy; however, when it came time to actually make the verbal commitment, Sabbatini relayed one of the better parts of her stay in Fresno. Equal parts humorous and poignant, Sabbatini and her parents headed back to the car after Fresno State offered on the unofficial visit.

“I was really nervous in the moment and just had to think about it,” she said. “We got to the car and I started freaking out because my mom made cookies for all my teammates. So we took those back to the office and when all the coaches came out in the hallway, I made the decision there to commit. I was overwhelmed with butterflies and almost too nervous to say anything. Moments later, I was really happy in the moment. But it was a funny way to commit.”

A fun fact: Sabbatini already had pegged Fresno State as one of the places to spend the next four years of her life, having already received an acceptance confirmation from the school. It was only in the Colorado Crossroads Tournament in February where Sabbatini’s talent shined on a national stage, and with it, an ensuing scholarship and dream realized.

“It was crazy how this all happened,” Sabbatini said. “In the end, it was all worth it.”

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