Lisa Kramer: USD’s senior leader

In many walks of life, being the fifth best results in nothing more than a footnote that gets forgotten years down the line. Not many people remember the fifth best concert they went to or the fifth best sandwich they’ve ever eaten. Finishing fifth in an Olympic event leaves you on the outside looking in at the medal ceremony.

Ben Carson, the man who came in fifth in this year’s Republican primary, will go down in history as the sleepy doctor who tried to run for president. He will likely fade into obscurity until at least the next election cycle.

The University of San Diego volleyball team is hoping that their current status as the fifth ranked team in NCAA volleyball will result in more than just a future anecdote. Such a high ranking carries legitimate national championship expectations, something that redshirt senior Lisa Kramer and her teammates are aware of.

“This is probably the most solid team I’ve been on,” Kramer said. “We consistently show up to play. When we don’t show up all the way we still get the win. Our goal is definitely to win a WCC championship, to win the rest of our games, and obviously go really far [in the NCAA Tournament] and hopefully win the national championship.”

With their most recent victory, a 3-0 triumph over the Saint Mary’s College Gaels, the Toreros brought their winning streak to 14 matches. This year’s team looks primed to challenge the school record 19 match winning streak set by the teams of 1997 and 2004. Of course, setting a USD record for consecutive wins would pale in comparison to a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

Since the inaugural season of the women’s volleyball program in 1975, the Toreros have never gotten past the second round of the tournament.

Kramer, knowing that this will be last season she gets to wear the Torero uniform, is laser-focused on bringing her team to heights they’ve never reached before.

“The way we’re playing right now, a lot of the team is doing it for the seniors, that’s kind of been our motto,” Kramer said. “This is an extra special year. We’re definitely playing for each other right now.”

Kramer comes from an athletic family and an eclectic background. Born in 1994 in Bergisch-Gladbach, Germany, the 6-foot-2-inch Kramer later moved to America and attended high school in Encinitas, Calif. Her father, Arvid, played basketball at Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D., before appearing in eight games for the Denver Nuggets during the 1979-80 season.

After fizzling out in the NBA, he was able to pursue a career professionally in Europe. Kramer’s older brother, Dennis, also was a student-athlete at Alcala Park.

He was a forward for the USD men’s basketball team from 2010 through 2014. In his senior season, Kramer averaged 11.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. In the Toreros’ exhilarating upset over the Gonzaga University Bulldogs that year, Kramer chipped in nine points and seven rebounds.

While coming from an athletic gene pool can certainly be a boon for any athlete, Kramer’s hard working habits have also elevated her to the elite level she’s at today. Last year, she was named as an honorable mention for the All-American team and was selected for the first team All-West Coast Conference.

Earlier this year, Kramer told the San Diego Union-Tribune that she’s open to the idea of playing volleyball professionally overseas, specifically in Germany, Italy, France, or Switzerland.

“I have family there, so that would be nice,” said Kramer. “Anywhere in Europe would be great.”

            AVCA COACHES POLL (as of 10/10)

  1. Wisconsin Badgers
  2. Nebraska Cornhuskers
  3. Minnesota Golden Gophers
  4. Texas Longhorns
  5. San Diego Toreros
  6. Kansas Jayhawks
  7. Washington Huskies
  8. North Carolina Tar Heels
  9. Florida Gators
  10. Penn State Nittany Lions

As an outside hitter, Kramer has been a huge part of the Toreros’ success this season. The team has earned impressive, resume-boosting wins over the Stanford Cardinal, Colorado Buffaloes, and University of California, Los Angeles Bruins, all of whom were ranked in the top 20 at the time of their matchup with USD. The Toreros’ only two losses of the 2016 schedule came in early September to the Minnesota Golden Gophers and Wisconsin Badgers.

As of the Oct. 10 version of the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll, the Gophers and Badgers are two of the top three teams in the nation.

Kramer spoke about what her and the team learned from those duels with Minnesota and Wisconsin. She explained how playing the country’s best teams can prepare them for the NCAA Tournament.

“We definitely had that thought that we can beat them,” Kramer said. “It was hard because we played them at the beginning of the season when everyone is still kind of getting to know each other. It’s a great learning opportunity to know ‘These are the top competitors. This is who we’d have to beat if we were to win a national championship.’”

Moving forward, the Toreros’ toughest remaining challenge will likely come on Oct. 28 in Provo, Utah, when they square up with the eleventh-ranked Brigham Young University Cougars. USD dispelled the Cougars by a score of 3-0 when the teams met on Sept. 30 at the Jenny Craig Pavilion.

The next opportunity to catch Kramer and the Toreros at home will be on Oct. 20, when they will host the Loyola Marymount Lions.

Written by Matthew Roberson, Sports Editor