JACKSON, Miss. (BVM) — For the third straight season, Jackson Academy (JA) volleyball has the Gatorade Mississippi Volleyball Player of the Year on its roster. After Parker Bracken won the award two straight times, Lakin Laurendine has continued JA’s latest custom.
“Winning Gatorade Player of the Year has definitely been one of the most special awards I have ever received,” Laurendine said. “Ever since I was young, my biggest goal was to become [the] Gatorade Player of the Year and when my mom called to tell me I had received the award, it brought me to tears to know that I had reached this dream of mine with everyone around to help me.”
The 6-foot-2 junior outside hitter, who is an Auburn volleyball commit, helped lead Jackson Academy to a 38-8 overall record in the Midsouth Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) Conference. Laurendine finished her junior year with 509 kills, 378 digs and 111 service aces. Laurendine is also a MaxPreps second team All-American and a MAIS Player of the Year.
But for Mississippi’s best prep volleyball player, the love for volleyball started at an early age, thanks to her mother Shawna Laurendine.
“Volleyball has always been such [a] special sport to me,” Lakin said. “Growing up my mom has always been a coach, whether it was college or high school, I was always in a gym playing with the team or on the sidelines watching. That was definitely how I started playing. Growing up I also got the privilege of watching my sister play. She has always been so much fun to watch and someone I will always look up to. [I’ve also met] some of my best friends through this sport has been one of the most special things about it and something I will cherish forever.”
As Lakin continued her athletic journey she has received tons of support from her family. Her family knows what it takes to be successful in athletics too. Her mother is the head volleyball coach at Mississippi College and her father, Tommy Laurendine, is the offensive coordinator at Mississippi College as well.
“Growing up, my family has sacrificed a lot for me to be able to play the sport I love,” Lakin said. “They have always been my number one fan and are always pushing me to be my best on and off the court. My grandparents have also been super supportive through this process. Whether it’s watching my games online, sending me texts before or after a game or even traveling to my games or tournaments to watch me. The support I receive from my family and friends is endless and I am so thankful for each and every one of them because I would not be here without them.”
As the love of volleyball continued to grow for Lakin, so did her skill set. From eighth grade to sophomore year, Laurendine played for Clinton High School in Mississippi where she won team MVP for three straight years. She transferred from Clinton to Jackson Academy ahead of her junior year and began playing for current head volleyball coach Melissa Denson.
“I’ve always known Lakin was a special player from the time I met her when she moved to Jackson at 14,” Coach Denson said. “She was placed on my club team and I quickly knew she had that ‘it’ factor to be something special.
“Lakin is such a humble player and makes coaching her easy. I love watching my athletes chase their dreams and be successful. I’ve been in Lakin’s life as a coach since she was 14 in either school or club. Having her win this award as a Raider is really special. It’s an honor to be a small part of that journey that I do not take lightly. Having players trust that you’re there to guide them athletically, academically, and as a person is a huge privilege.”
To go along with a growing spirit for competitiveness and overall growth in her game, the attention of some of the best volleyball programs in the country caught the eye of the high school standout. Although plenty of schools were interested, Lakin ended up committing to Auburn.
“Personally, the recruiting process was extremely stressful,” Lakin said. “I quickly fell in love with many schools, and turning them down wasn’t easy to do. However, when I had my first phone call with Coach Brent [Crouch] at Auburn, I knew I wanted to be a part of a program like that. It has always been a dream of mine to play in the SEC and Auburn seemed to be the perfect fit, while being in the perfect radius of all my family.”
During her time at Jackson Academy, Lakin has also excelled in the classroom and has dedicated time to helping her community out. She has maintained a 3.68 GPA and volunteered her time to help Operation Christmas Child, the Salvation Army and she has coached at youth volleyball programs.
Lakin is set to begin her senior year this fall. She’ll be aiming to help the Lady Raiders capture their fourth straight MAIS Championship. And she is undoubtedly in the running to capture Jackson Academy’s fourth straight Gatorade Mississippi Volleyball Player of the Year award.
No matter what she accomplishes in her final year at JA or what she accomplishes at Auburn, Lakin Laurendine will always have a great time looking back at her time at Jackson Academy.
“Jackson Academy is such a special place to be,” Lakin said. “To be able to wear the JA logo and play for this program has been such an honor. I am so thankful for our amazing coaches who have pushed us to be the best while loving us like we are their own kids. This team has been one of my most favorite groups of girls to ever play with. They have quickly become my best friends on and off the court.
“I can’t thank JA volleyball enough for the amazing program I get to be a part of.”