Parker Bracken had an incredible junior season at Jackson Academy. She led the Lady Raiders to a state titleand was named the Mississippi Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year.
The 5-foot-10 Bracken led JA to a 43-3 record and the No. 1 ranking among public and private schools by MaxPreps in Mississippi. JA avenged the 2018 championship loss to Hartfield with a straight set win for the MAIS title last season. Hartfield had ended JA’s four-year reign as state champions and broke a four-year unbeatenstreak against MAIS teams. JA won its last 18 matches in 2019, including the wins over Hartfield for the title.
“It (avenging the title) was unbelievably satisfying. It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had,” Bracken said. “I know my teammates felt the same way. We worked so hard because we knew that Hartfield would be good competition at state again. Our motivation to win last year grew stronger due to us losing the year before. Last season was one of the best if not the best season in JA volleyball history, but I think we will be better this year.”
JA returns six of its seven starters from last season.
“Winning last year was so special. Their hard work paid off,” JA coach Melissa Denson said. “It’s driven this year’s team to work just as hard and my younger players on the varsity understand the expectations and put in the time during the summer. We really want to live in the moment and just be good for whatever challenge is in front of us for that day. I think if we hold onto last year we won’t see the beauty of this year and how the new role players add value.”
Bracken is ready to lead her team again during her senior year.
“All of my teammates who were on the team last year know the sweet feeling of success and we are trying to show our new teammates how amazing that feeling is,” Bracken said. “Our team goals consist of winning the MAIS state championship and being ranked No. 1 in the state again. The team goals are way more important to me than personal goals, but my personal goals are trying to get all the accomplishments I got last year.”
Bracken enters her senior season ranked No. 1 in Mississippi and No. 107 in the nation in the Class of 2021 by prepvolleyball.com. Bracken will be playing beach volleyball at LSU, one of the top beach volleyball programs in the country. But first, Bracken has one more season at JA.
“I want Parker to continue to be the leader and example for what our team standard is,” Denson said. “She’s done a great job of that, investing in our program and her teammates. I expect her to elevate everyone else around her. We have new players on the court so I expect her to achieve all her personal goals and for us to be successful as well. It’s her last year and she’s invested so much time into this program since she was little. I want her to enjoy her senior season and when she looks back she has no regrets.”
Bracken, along with seniors Natalie DeRusso (setter) and Pryor Mehrle (middle blocker), juniors Anna Claire Sheffield (middle blocker) and Remy Jones (libero) and freshman Emma Robertson (outside hitter/right side setter) are the returning starters. Sophomore Ava Ladner (a 6-foot outside hitter) is the new starter this season. Seniors Gracie Coe (defensive specialist) and Madeleine Pettus (defensive specialist) and sophomores Mary Grace Foster (a 6-foot right side setter) and Hannah Towery (a 6-2 middle blocker) are the top subs.
JA opened the season Thursday with a straight set victory over Hillcrest and won its second match with a straight victory Saturday over Oxford Regents. JA plays at Winston Academy Thursday and plays hosts to a tournament this weekend.