Photo by Chris Todd

By Robert Wilson

       There are about 520,000 girls who play high school volleyball in the United States, but only 11 of those accomplished what Jackson Academy’s Lakin Laurendine did this season.

       The 6-foot-2 senior outside hitter and Auburn signee has been named the Mississippi Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.

       Ten other players around the country were named their state’s Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year for the past two seasons.

       “Lakin has been successful over her whole career, and it was the best way to end her high school years,” JA coach Melissa Denson said. “She is very deserving of this award. Lakin is such a great athlete, teammate, and kid. Lakin wants the best for her team and school. She’s never made volleyball about herself and truly loves to play and make others around her better. She’s been named All-American by every organization possible and has elevated the level of play in our state. Lakin loves working with children and teaching them about the game. It’s her way of giving back to the sport that’s given so much to her. This is a huge honor for my team. For Lakin to be considered for this award, her team also had to be successful. It’s a testimony to not only her, but all the hours and hard work our girls put in throughout the season. It’s also a testimony to our school and our coaching staff. Without my assistants and our administrators who support and love on these girls, none of this would be possible.”

Laurendine is a first team AVCA All-American and named the National Volleyball Player of the Year by She led JA to its fourth straight MAIS state championship this past fall, a No. 1 ranking in Mississippi and No. 26 in the nation by and No. 1 ranking in Mississippi and No. 9 in the South by USA Today. Laurendine led the Lady Raiders to 51 consecutive wins against MAIS competition and 39 straight wins against Mississippi teams (MAIS and MHSAA).

Laurendine is the No. 1 ranked recruit in Mississippi in the Class of 2023 according to MaxPreps, rated as one of the Top 23 players in the country in the Class of 2023 by and is ranked the No. 46 player in the country in the Class of 2023 by

She had a Mississippi record 2,712 kills, 2,055 digs, 441 aces, 168 blocks and 31 assists during her high school career.

Laurendine’s mother, Shawna, is the volleyball coach at Mississippi College and her father, Tommy, is the offensive coordinator on MC’s football staff.

       “Winning the Gatorade Player of the Year has been such a huge honor,” Laurendine said. “I am so beyond thankful I get to represent this state with such a special award. This past season with Jackson Academy volleyball has definitely been the most special. This team has pushed each other to be better on and off the court, which has helped me improve my game along with the ability to have fun knowing my teammates always had my back.”

“Lakin is such a force,” Denson said. “She’s a 6-rotation player that doesn’t make a ton of mistakes. Lakin wears teams down and finds a way to win. She improved her overall conditioning and strength this season. Lakin worked hard in the weight room with our strength coaches to make sure she was in top shape. She also worked on her mental game and played free. She did not let the pressure get to her this year and enjoyed the ride.”

After graduation this May, Laurendine will begin her next chapter at Auburn. She chose Auburn over Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Missouri State and Samford.

“Going into my freshman year at Auburn, I am so excited to be a part of this awesome program surrounded by an amazing and talented group of girls as well as coaches,” Laurendine said. “They have already made me feel at home and I cannot wait to officially call it mine.”

“I think Lakin will be a great contribution to Auburn,” Denson said. “There’s always a learning curve, but I know what she is capable of. I expect to see big things from her in the SEC and on the national level.”