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    Lara Clarkson

    Lynn Clarkson

    Oct. 4, 2001

    By Shawn K. Sullivan

    When sisters Lynn and Lara Clarkson find themselves on the court together for the University of Illinois at Chicago volleyball team, an instant connection is made. It's the kind of relationship that only siblings could share.

    "We have a special connection on the court, without a doubt," said Lara, 22 months shy of the elder Lynn.

    "I know what Lara played like when she was in middle-school, so we have an advantage out there," Lynn added.

    The Flames were almost at a disadvantage as the Clarkson sisters went their separate ways following their prep careers at LaPorte High School, in LaPorte, Indiana.

    Following her graduation in 1997, Lynn made plans to attend and play volleyball UIC. Lara, however, had other thoughts in mind.

    After finishing her high school career as a First-Team All-Stater, Lara knew one thing: she didn't want to play with her older sister.

    "I was kind of immature back then and I had enough of playing with Lynn and I wanted a change," Lara said.

    Lara made her way to Lincoln Park to play for the DePaul Blue Demons.

    While at DePaul Lara was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team after blasting onto the scene, becoming just the second DePaul freshman to tally 400 kills and 400 digs.

    At the same time Lynn vaulted into the Flames starting line-up in her sophomore season. She finished the 1999 campaign third on the team in kills (311) and second in blocks (96).

    But then in the latter stages of Lara's rookie year at DePaul, she became fed up with the coaching philosophies.

    "I really didn't get along with the coaches up there (at DePaul), Lara said. "It got real negative and then it was downhill from there."

    That led to the reunion of the Clarkson's on the volleyball court down Halsted Street for the Flames.

    "I knew about UIC from Lynn, and (head coach) Don (August) contacted me," said the younger Clarkson. "My parents also really pushed me to come to UIC."

    So, after playing together in 2000, this season has been a bit of a struggle thus far in 2001 as the Flames are 5-7 and 0-3 in Horizon League play. Not only did UIC lose their first three Horizon League meetings of the season, they lost each match in five games.

    "We're young in key positions," said Lynn.

    "Not everyone on the team understands (how young we are)," Lara added. "We just need to adjust and work together."

    Off the court, it seems the future for both Lynn and Lara are pretty well scouted out. Lynn is an architecture major while Lara is studying to become a teacher.

    Lynn's classes, however, have come into conflict with practices and games, but Coach August has been very accommodating to her.

    "I came here because of the great (architecture) program and not many coaches allow their athletes to even attempt this major because of all of the class-time," Lynn said. "But Don is real flexible about missing practice once in awhile for class and very encouraging."

    So, as Lynn wants to construct architecture, Lara is focusing on building young minds, as a seventh-grade math teacher.

    Why seventh-grade?

    "I was a cadet teacher in high school and I helped teach seventh-grade math," said Lara. "It was a lot of fun and you can still get a hold of the kids that are falling through the cracks when they're in seventh-grade, so its not too late."

    Well, both Clarkson's ended up at UIC, playing volleyball and building futures, much to their parents' delight.

    "They're like super-fans, they'll go anywhere. It's been a lot of fun," Lara said of her parents, Patrick and Mary.

    And now, with only a short time left before Lynn finishes her career, the duo must flourish with the time they have left together.

    And when it is over here at UIC, who knows, maybe Lynn will design a school Lara teaches in.