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Wisconsin Badger great Lauren Carlini becomes founding athlete for new pro volleyball team in Madison

Posted at 9:30 AM, Dec 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-15 10:30:15-05

MADISON — The pathway to professional volleyball has always ended overseas for American players, but starting next year, a new professional league called League One Volleyball is launching in the United States with the intention of bringing the world’s best players home.

Madison is one of six cities nationwide that will host a professional team starting in 2024. The team is called LOVB Madison, pronounced "Love."

Lauren Carlini, a four-time All-American setter for the Wisconsin Badgers from 2013-16, was announced as the team's founding athlete on Dec. 4.

“If you were to tell me when I was a youth player, hey, you're going to be able to play in the United States professionally at one point, I would have been like, there's no way," Carlini laughed.

After spending the last eight years overseas playing professional volleyball, Carlini says she coming back to the city she considers home.

“Madison has just always held a special place to my heart from when I started going to camps there I think when I was in sixth grade," she smiled.

Arguably one of the greatest players in Badger history, Carlini shared she was nearly on the cusp of retirement before the announcement of League One Volleyball.

“If this didn't happen, I probably would have just been done with volleyball and see what kind of the next path in life and where it goes and takes me," Carlini expressed. "Now I get the chance to keep doing what I love at home.”

LOVB is not the only entity trying to establish pro volleyball in America at the moment. Athletes United is on the horizon of beginning its third season, while the Pro Volleyball Federation is also planning to begin in 2024.

However, LOVB is using a first-of-its-kind community approach where each professional team is built from the foundation of junior clubs.

“We have the ability to train in tandem with Madtown Juniors," Carlini explained. We're all going to be under the same roof at a brand new facility that's being built."

"To be able to interact with these girls — 10, 13, 15, 16, 17-year-olds —have them watch us practice, come and ask us questions, and again, just have that exposure on a day to day basis," she added. "It's going to be huge for the game of volleyball and the growth of the sport.”

Carlini is finishing up her eighth and final professional overseas season in Turkey and will come back stateside in April. She shared will immediately begin training with the National Team in hopes of making the Olympic roster for Paris 2024.

Following the Olympics, she will have a few months of rest and recovery before getting started with LOVB Madison Volleyball in November 2024.

Her coaches and teammates have not been finalized yet, but that should resolved over the next few months.