In the 2012 Olympics, Great Britain finished dead last in the men’s preliminary round with a record of 0-5. The women finished one step higher in fifth place in the preliminary round with a record of 1-4, .
Neither team ever reached bracket play in the Olympics.
These results caused Great Britain to cut its volleyball budget and the possibility of playing Olympic volleyball was slim to none. Players like Grace Lazard faced the challenge of paying for camps and attending universities at an early age to continue their dreams of playing volleyball.
Lazard chose a different route to continue her volleyball aspirations. Instead of staying in Great Britain, Lazard chose to take her culture and personality to a country that funded volleyball, and an institution that gave her an opportunity to win a national championship: the United States and Iowa State University.
“In England, there’s no opportunity to win a national championship like colleges have in the United States,” Lazard said. “The only thing we focus on in the U.K. is representing our country in the Olympics.”
Great Britain had a $5.6 million budget that decreased to about $607,660 to focus on sand volleyball. The country wanted to focus its attention on hockey because the Brits have won hockey medals in the last few Olympic games.
After the budget cuts in 2012, Lazard started communicating with coaches from colleges in the U.S. because she knew the future at home was dismal. She emailed the coach of every top-50 team and was surprised to see the interest reflected in the number of quick replies.
“I don’t think there was a lot of opportunity for her there, at least not the level she wanted to play at,” said ISU coach Christy Johnson-Lynch. “I think she’s excited to get the high level competition and be able to use her skills when she goes back home during the summer or after graduation.”
Johnson-Lynch said she is excited to have Lazard on the team because of her talent, personality and culture. It makes the team stronger and more capable of winning a national championship, while providing an influx of diversity.
After speaking to most of the team, her teammates’ favorite thing about Lazard is her accent. Sophomore setter Monique Harris wishes Lazard could speak throughout the entire practice because she enjoys the British accent so much.
“Instead of saying ‘excuse me,’ she’ll say ‘pardon me,’ and you have to think about it for a second,” Harris said. “Grace is grace, and she’s a fun girl to be around, and I love her.”
Johnson-Lynch said she enjoys Lazard’s fun and expressive personality because it allows her to be a leader on and off the court. She has the capability to pump up her teammates after a block or a hard kill, which is a necessary tool in that capacity.
Off the court, Lazard has visited Mucky Duck Pub, which is a British restaurant, and loved the food. Johnson-Lynch is planning a day to go to the restaurant as a team and enjoy the food Lazard grew up on.
As for the future, Johnson-Lynch said she can’t wait to see Lazard’s success during the next four years. Throughout practices and matches, Johnson-Lynch has seen an improvement every day.
Lazard has the strength to create some opportunities for hard kills and solid blocks throughout the season. She’s looking forward to learning from the veterans and taking advantage of whatever opportunities come.
“Her presence and her ability to put the ball down is incredible,” Harris said. “It’s great to have her at Iowa State, and I can’t wait to see her future here.”