After jetting south to Flagstaff, Ariz. for a December recruiting trip, Lauren Edlund, 17, of Barnwell committed her A-game in volleyball to Northern Arizona University (NAU). The NAU Lumberjacks are a member of the Big Sky Conference and a Division 1 team, the highest level of collegiate sports sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the U.S. It’s the big time.

Edlund is a Grade 11 student at Vauxhall High School and her dad Aaron Edlund is vice-principal and athletic director at Barnwell School. He explained part of the motivation for Lauren attending VHS.  

“Vauxhall’s strong volleyball program was one of the reasons Lauren decided to go there for sure. I feel like Vauxhall’s baseball academy rubs off on the girls volleyball players. The girls volleyball team gets to see the academy baseball players in the weightroom after school and throwing balls in the gym at lunch. Vauxhall has a culture for athletics.”

Edlund’s recruiting visit to Flagstaff before Christmas went well; she hit it off with the NAU coaches and fell in love with the city. 

“It is common to check out several schools, but NAU was actually the only school that I went on an official visit to,” she said. “The second I stepped on campus I knew it was the right place for me. I am mindful that people’s time is important, and while it is fun to take visits, I was happy to commit on the spot.”

Her recruitment was accelerated by her participation with Volleyball Canada’s Junior National team program. She spent last July training full time in Ontario. 

“Being able to wear the maple leaf was a really cool experience and I learned a lot,” she said. “I also know that it is a huge badge of honour that helped me get recognized by more college coaches.”

Perhaps even more important to her recruitment was her participation in the first ever BioSteel High School Girls All-Canadian game in Toronto last June. NCAA rules prohibit contact with Grade 10 students until the middle of June and that’s when things really blew up. 

“I got calls, texts, and emails from over 20 Division 1 programs. It was super flattering, but also kind of overwhelming,” said Edlund. Top programs like Michigan State, Indiana, and San Diego State reached out, but as time went on several other schools became more persistent and of those more persistent schools, Northern Arizona kept rising to the top, twice traveling to Canada to watch her play.

“I am very excited to join my new teammates in the fall of 2025,” she said of the Lumberjacks. “The girls were so friendly and welcoming during my visit, but I have some unfinished business with the teammates I have right now and want to win a provincial championship. My Vauxhall Queens teammates and my Dinos Volleyball Club teammates are all a big part of my success. Volleyball is such a team sport. I don’t get to do my thing unless my teammates do theirs.”

Edlund has excelled in Vauxhall, where the Queens have an established a successful volleyball program. She’s also a member of the Dinos volleyball club, and plays two volleyball ‘seasons’: the high school season from September to November, and the ‘club’ volleyball season from December to May. The Dinos Volleyball club is one of the top clubs, not just in Alberta, but in the whole country.

She expressed gratitude to her coaches and mentors, saying, “Coach Scott Reiling in Vauxhall really pushes me. He has made some changes to my arm swing that have put me over the top and my Dinos club coach, Shannon Rossall, has assembled a team that will allow me to compete at the very highest levels in Canada and help prepare me for the pace I’ll play at in university. Ultimately though, the volleyball seed would have never been planted in me if it wasn’t for Derry Kolody,” she said. Kolody is a former Medicine Hat College coach who moved to Taber/Barnwell many years ago and has been working at Barnwell School as a teacher’s assistant specializing with high needs kids.

“Derry should one day be in the Taber Sports Hall of Fame for his dedication to youth sports in our area,” Aaron Edlund said. “If you are under 30 years old and have played either volleyball, soccer, or basketball there is probably a 50/50 chance that Derry was once a coach of yours. My wife and I are both former college basketball players. All of my kids have played basketball and Lauren and her older sister Olivia are really good basketball players too, but Derry told me years ago that he would make volleyball players out of my daughters. I laughed it off at the time because they were both tearing it up on the basketball court, but it turns out that Derry was right. They have both excelled at volleyball at the local, provincial, and national levels and now both down to the States.”

Lauren said, “Derry made volleyball so much fun when I was little and none of this would have happened if it wasn’t for him.” A recruiting coordinator named Bill Fong also played a role, connecting Edlund with NAU, and his guidance during the recruiting process was invaluable.

The Dinos volleyball club will soon head to Vancouver and Las Vegas to challenge top Canadian and American clubs, and Edlund is looking forward to being able to play and enjoy her teammates instead of worrying about the eyes of college recruiters. The Dinos will make their third annual trip to Barnwell to play some exhibition games against a collection of local college players on April 27 and anyone who wants to watch the high-level volleyball is invited to attend.

Edlund will follow in sister Olivia’s footsteps by taking her athleticism to the States, where Olivia is currently a redshirt freshman at the University of North Dakota. 

“I am so excited to be a Lumberjack,” Edlund enthused. “NAU just checks so many of my boxes. The coaches reminded me that Flagstaff still gets snow, but I don’t think I’ll have to experience minus 20 for a few years.”

Lumberjacks coach Ken Murphy is pleased to welcome her, as his team looks to bounce back from two injury-riddled seasons that have knocked the university off of their regular perch atop the Big Sky Conference. Edlund will likely log minutes as a right side, but Murphy likes her passing platform and sees her as a potential six rotation pin hitter.

By Cal Braid, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Original Published on Jan 22, 2024 at 11:35

This item reprinted with permission from   The Taber Times   Taber, Alberta

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