Favorite Athlete: Serena Williams
Favorite Team: Penn State Football
Favorite memory competing in sports: My favorite memory when competing in sports was when my club volleyball team went to nationals and won first place in our division. It was extremely exciting because we traveled to Florida to play new teams, and we all worked really well together as a team to win.
Most embarrassing/funniest moment while competing in sports: In my freshman year, I was blocking with my teammate, and when we were landing from the jump, she accidentally elbowed me in the eye, giving me a black eye. I had to play in the first game of the season with a big black eye, but luckily it healed by the first day of school.
Music on iPod: Pop
Future Plans: I want to go to college to become a Speech Pathologist and work with children in a school or a hospital.
Words to live by: "Nothing can dim the light that shines from within." -Maya Angelou
One goal before turning 30: I hope to have a successful career so that I can buy myself a red Lexus.
One thing people don’t know about me: I am double-jointed in my arm, so I am able to lick my elbow.
By GORDON GLANTZ
Lauren Koestler has a vision of her future self, carving out a career working with children as a speech pathologist and driving off into the sunset in a red Lexus with her patented smile on her face.
The way the Council Rock South senior has turned bad times into good, there is no doubt she will embody her watchword quote by Maya Angelou: “Nothing can dim the light that shines from within.”
But, by her own admission, the plug was suddenly and tragically pulled on this eternal and internal light when her father, Donald, succumbed to a brain aneurysm.
She had only recently discovered volleyball, having been fully converted from basketball in middle school – mainly in eighth grade by her coach, Sarah Spadafora – Koestler had just made the cut as a freshman on the high school team.
“I was going into my freshman year when he went into the hospital,” recalled Koestler. “I had just made the volleyball team. I was so excited.”
But when her father didn’t make it, passing away on Sept. 9 of 2014, she was devastated and wasn’t sure where to seek solace.
With her parents divorced, dad had yet to see her play in person.
“The last time I saw him, I said, ‘Please come see me play,’” Koestler said. “And he said, ‘Of course I will come see you play.’ But he never got to see me play.
“I think if he could see me now, though, he would be proud of me.”
The daughter he would see “in the now” is a 6-foot senior co-captain who plays on the front line at the “opposite” position for a team with high aspirations. She does not forget the journey back to the light.
Her salvation began with volleyball.
“I’m normally a happy person,” she said. “The only thing that could bring me back was volleyball.”
Council Rock South had just been hit by a tragedy when three sophomore boys died in a car accident, but that didn’t stop her new teammates from postponing a game with William Tennent and attending her father’s funeral.
From there, the team’s seniors took Koestler under their wing and the healing slowly began with what has become her surrogate family.
“The girls were the best,” she said. “I was just a freshman, but the seniors were outstanding.
“And after he died, my priority became volleyball. I would go to school, tough it out and then go to practice.
“I would say that I started becoming happier again after a few months of constant support from my friends, team, and family.”
John Wright, who had coached Koestler in club volleyball, took over as the team’s head coach going into her sophomore year.
He knew her well enough to know, despite her grace, that it wasn’t easy.
“It was not,” he confirmed. “But, she handled it with class and strength far beyond her years.”
In return, he not only has a standout player but a true team leader.
“Lauren is a gifted athlete who has an infectious personality,” he said. “I rely on her to keep the team loose when things get tense. Her height and being left handed make her an ideal opposite. She has become a valuable weapon in our offense. Lauren excels both in the classroom and on the court. It has been a pleasure seeing her grow from a girl into a fine young woman.”
Koestler, who shares captain duties with Hannah Sullivan, sees herself as both a leader by example and as one who will say what’s on her mind.
“I’m definitely a mixture of both,” said Koestler, who has two older brothers, D.J. and Joey. “I always try to be encouraging, but I also try to do things correctly.”
Because she was a “swing player” in that blur of a freshman year – meaning she was up and down between junior varsity and varsity – she was with the team but didn’t play when the Golden Hawks reached the postseason.
As a senior, who may or may not play volleyball at the next level, her team-oriented goals are to get there again as a key player.
While her club team – based out of Princeton, N.J. – gave her the ultimate thrill of victory this summer, Koestler would like to experience the same with a team that includes best friends and fellow seniors Taylor Spinelli, Faith Turner and Hannah Devlin.
“We would like to make the playoffs,” said Koestler, encouraged by her team’s 5-0 start that was ended by powerful Pennsbury. “As a freshman, I was able to go with the team, but I didn’t get to play.”
Entering the season, there is another score she was determined to settle.
“It would great to beat (Council Rock) North,” she said last week. “We’ve never done it. I’m not sure if we have ever done it (since Council Rock became two high schools in 2002), but I know we have never done in my four years here.”
Last Friday, Koestler was able to check that box on her senior season to-do list by virtue of 3-1 win over the archrival Indians.
“I was so excited when we beat North,” she said. “This has always been a goal of mine, so it was like we achieved a huge milestone. We all worked very cohesively as a team to all help secure the win. I was so proud of my team for working so hard to achieve the common goal.
“I hope we can play another great game against them when we see them later in the season.”
Koestler may not have played in a playoff game or beaten her crosstown rival, but she has left no stone unturned as a member of the school’s community.
“My schoolwork is very important to me,” said Koestler, who takes all honors classes and holds down a 4.31 weight grade-point average.
A Girl Scout from kindergarten to seventh grade, before volleyball became the center of her attention. Koestler is the press officer for the National Honor Society, sings in the choir, is active in the school’s Travis Manion Foundation and takes her athletic skills outside in the spring season, playing attack on the lacrosse team.
Armed with 1260 SAT score, she is now weighing her options for college.
The best chance to still play volleyball would be at Penn State’s Abington campus. She also plans to look at La Salle, West Chester and Pitt but conceded that Penn State – home of her favorite football team – has a “really good program” for her chosen field.
Koestler became interested in speech pathology while visiting her mom, Donna, who – beyond being her major source of support and strength -- is a role model as a second-grade teacher at Goodnoe Elementary School.
It was there that she watched the speech pathologist work with students with impediments.
“I always thought about working with kids, but I really didn’t want to be a teacher,” she said. “That is still a good environment where you can work with kids.
“I like it because I’m a positive person, and I like to be happy.”