If you head west on the 403 from Hamilton, you’ll discover a gem nestled on the western part of the Golden Horseshoe. It’s a stone’s throw from McMaster and might as well be considered the university’s backyard. Welcome to Ancaster, ON, home to Lauren Mastroluisi.
Mastroluisi went to Ancaster High from 2007-2011 and was a multisport athlete who played basketball, water polo, badminton and tennis in addition to volleyball. She played club for Burlington’s Defensa and won club nationals in 2011.
Head Coach Tim Louks heavily recruited Mastroluisi since grade nine. She received high interest from Guelph, Laurier and even got some notice from the NCAA’s Eastern Michigan and Bowling Green. But when the time came to choose, Mastroluisi went with what she knew her whole life.
Her entire family went to McMaster.
“My parents and my brothers went here. My brother played football for Mac and my dad played hockey for Mac. It’s a Mac family,” said Mastroluisi. “My parents always told me I could go wherever I wanted, but something pulled me here because I knew how much everyone in my family loved it.”
As a student-athlete, nothing says welcome to the university level like playing in front of a roaring home crowd. One of her favorite memories came from her rookie season when McMaster hosted the Women’s CIS Championships.
“We played No. 1 Alberta in the quarterfinal and we were ranked No. 8. We walk into the gym and the roar of the crowd was insane. There were so many people there,” said Mastroluisi. “I had an adrenaline rush for the next two weeks. I was shaking. It was the most fun and we took a set off them, which was hype. Taylor (Brisebois), Mira (Krunic) and I started that game, which was huge because we were little first years. It was wild.”
In her career, Mastroluisi made two CIS Championship appearances (2012, 2014) and won an OUA banner in 2014. She was named to the CIS and OUA All-Rookie team in 2011 in addition to being named McMaster’s team MVP and OUA First Team All-Star in 2015.
Her fourth year was her best one yet.
“I think that, physically, it was my best year all-around. I was in my best shape. I started to understand the game more,” Mastroluisi said. “Instead of just hitting the ball I would start hitting shots. I would see the court better.”
It was in those senior years that she developed her biggest skill at Mac.
“Playing for Mac taught me patience. Coach has really pushed the concept of patience on us. Slow it down, take a breath, see and know what you’re doing,” said Mastroluisi. “When you’re in a game you can get caught up with the crowd and everything, but taking a breath and being patient has been huge.”
On the topic of patience, Mastroluisi is in a season of life that requires just that. When volleyball has been life for 11 years, it takes some time to transition into your next step. Upon graduation, she hopes to go to teacher’s college. Her passion to invest in kids’ lives can be traced back to her time volunteering at the Hamilton Boys and Girls Club.
“Community outreach has been big for me. I’ve been involved with Mac Athletes Care since first year. You just hangout with kids and help them with anything they need,” Mastroluisi said. “It’s like being a big sister.”
Her desire to invest in the next generation stretches from the court to the classroom. She cited her Defensa coach, Rob Fernley, as her inspiration.
“He puts so much effort into making sure that his athletes are the best that they can be. I think six out of the 10 girls on my club team played NCAA Division I and did well,” Mastroluisi said. “He was into developing potential. I want to be the type of coach that sees something in a kid and trusts my instincts on their potential.”
McMaster teammates Ina Onat and Rebecca Steckle think Mastroluisi is a natural when it comes to identifying the best in others. From the testimony of her friends, teaching and coaching seem to be the perfect fit for her.
“She sees the potential in those around her and encourages them to be their best selves, whether it be in volleyball or in life. She is full of life and has left her mark on each one of us,” said Onat.
“She is the life of the team on the court. I would argue that there are very few people who are able to truly make others believe in themselves, but Lo is one of them. She has the uncanny ability to allow you to be yourself and have complete confidence in who you are and what you bring to the team,” said Steckle.
“Although Lo has been influential on the court for the past five years, it is her friendship and love for people that will continue to change lives, like it has mine. She is a rare breed.”
As she transitions into the next season of her life, Mastroluisi walks away from McMaster bleeding the only color she has known: maroon.
Photo Credit: Yousif Haddad