Posted: 12:00 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014

Van Kleunen making big impact for Comets

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Van Kleunen making big impact for Comets photo
Lauren Van Kleunen

By John Cummings

Contributing Writer

Lauren Van Kleunen learned a lot as a role player last season.

Coming off the bench gave her a chance to watch and learn, and also play.

“Watching Kayla (McDowell) showed me where I definitely want to be some day. She was a real mentor,” Van Kleunen said of her former teammate who is now at the University of Missouri. “I got some good minutes and it showed me what happens if you put yourself in position to do the little things and how those help the team. One steal, one rebound, anything can put the team ahead and they are all big.”

The 6-foot-1 sophomore has turned those little things into big things in her first season as a starter. Van Kleunen is among the top five in the Greater Miami Conference in scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding (7.6) for the unbeaten Comets, the state’s top-ranked team. Mason faced Princeton on Saturday in a showdown of the GMC’s top two teams.

“It has been a little different role,” she said. “It has definitely been hard with the expectations.”

Van Kleunen has surprised herself with her scoring. She’s come a long way since the season opener against Talawanda.

“I was very nervous,” Van Kleunan said. “I think I was just chucking up shots. Coach told me to calm down and it definitely gave me confidence. I have really been able to play more freely.”

To get ready for the bigger role this season, Van Kleunen went to work on a new body.

“I knew I had to get stronger,” she said. “I was a weak freshman last year, but my brother really helped me get stronger. I have seen that work in the off season pay off.”

Van Kleunen is one of the new faces in a Mason lineup that entered the season with very little expectations from outside observers.

“I think going into the season, people saw the seniors we lost and that we returned just five players and it made us underdogs heading in,” Van Kleunen said. “I didn’t think we would be 17-0 based on what we lost, but this senior group really stepped up. I think this shows how much we have come together. Now that we are 17-0, it is definitely a big deal even though we are trying not to make a big deal about it.”

Van Kluenen said coach Rob Matula does a great job keeping the Comets grounded each time the state polls are released showing them as the top Division I team in the state.

“We try not to listen to everything,” Van Kleunen said. “Coach tells us that each week that it is making the bullseye bigger and bigger. If we buy into what people say about how good we are and think we can just show up and win, someone is going to beat us. And we believe coach is right.”

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