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MURDOCK – Beavers are considered one of the top engineers of the natural world for their ability to design intricate homes and landscapes.

Elmwood-Murdock’s Lauren Justesen has engineered a chance to play at the collegiate volleyball level with her creativity and work ethic on the court.

Justesen signed a letter of intent Wednesday morning with Bemidji State University’s volleyball program. The Beavers are NCAA Division II members and play in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

Justesen said she was looking forward to being part of Bemidji State’s program. She toured the lakeside campus in northern Minnesota during a volleyball camp this summer and at an official visit in September.

“The people there are great,” Justesen said. “When I went there I was able to get to know the girls a bit and see what the program was like. Everyone was so welcoming and nice. It felt like home when I was there.”

Bemidji State head coach Kevin Ulmer said he was pleased to have Justesen join the program. He said her positive attitude and work ethic will help the Beavers both on the court and in the locker room.

“Lauren shows amazing commitment to the game, most notably on defense,” Ulmer said. “As I’ve said about her when I first saw her play, ‘she’s all effort, all the time.’ It’s refreshing to see players like this because they are rare.

“Also, once you get to know Lauren you can hear in her voice and in what she talks about that she’s serious about everything she does and she does it to the best of her ability. She also has an added bonus as the daughter of a coach to understand the game in a way you can’t appreciate all the time as a young player.”

Justesen paced Elmwood-Murdock this past season in multiple categories. She ended her senior campaign with 235 kills, a .243 hitting percentage, 55 aces, 121 service points, 376 digs, 142 assists and 303 serve receptions.

Her 2019 season was the final act in an award-winning volleyball career. She finished as the school’s all-time leader in career digs with 1,243. She pocketed 1,005 kills, 185 aces, 51 solo blocks, 194 assists and 1,350 serve receptions during her four years with the Knights.

Justesen will compete for a spot either as a defensive specialist or libero. Ulmer said she has impressed the coaching staff with her passing accuracy and her effort in the back row. He also said Justesen’s overall personality and outlook on life will benefit the Beavers.

“While these (defensive skills) are critical to her success, Lauren is also a great communicator,” Ulmer said. “She’s actively talking with her teammates about what she’s doing and what she’s seeing on the court. She also exudes composure. In stressful situations, it’s important to stay level-headed and to have a short-term memory. Don’t get too high or too low, just keep playing for each point.

“Although some would say these are not considered skills, I believe they are. And I think they’re harder to train than actual volleyball skills. These mental components often make the biggest difference in college.

“How will they compete when it gets hard or they fail? How will they handle stress and frustration? Can they overcome losing and bounce back to work even harder after that loss, or will they give up? This is where athletics transfers in the real life. I believe Lauren has a great grasp of these components and they will help her along the way in college and in life.”

Justesen will major either in nursing or counseling at Bemidji State. She has been an Honor Roll student at Elmwood-Murdock and has earned multiple academic awards. She has participated in volleyball, basketball, track and field, band, Future Business Leaders of America and the East Central Nebraska Conference Leadership Summit. She has also been involved with 4-H activities for 12 years.

Justesen said she is excited to help the Beavers engineer successful results on the volleyball court in future years.

“I was pretty nervous waiting to hear if I would get an offer from them,” Justesen said. “I really wanted to go there, so it was an amazing feeling when I learned they were asking me to be a part of the team. I cried because I was so happy. It’s going to be great up there.”

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