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Driven to be a player teammates could count on, Lone Peak’s Lauren Jardine named 2020 Deseret News Ms. Volleyball

Determination, hard work defined the Wisconsin-bound outside hitter

Lone Peak volleyball player Lauren Jardine poses for a photograph at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.
Lone Peak volleyball player Lauren Jardine poses for a photograph at Lone Peak High School in Highland on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

Struggling for every point in the decisive fifth set against a talented Park City team, Lone Peak was, according to their coach, “not playing the best team volleyball.”

But Lauren Jardine did what she’d done too many times to count.

“I can’t tell you how many matches we won because she came alive when we needed her,” said Lone Peak head volleyball coach Reed Carlson. “It was fun to see. ... As my brother said to me after the match, ‘What do you do when Lauren decides to be awesome?’”

What made watching the senior outside hitter rally her teammates with her intensity and skill rewarding was that Carlson understood how hard Jardine worked to become the player upon whom her teammates could rely. It was her consistent excellence and talent that earned her the 2020 Ms. Volleyball Award.

“That was the really cool thing about her development,” Carlson said about watching her overcome any barriers, frustrations or self-defeating thoughts through hard work. “She became that player for us. We knew when it got tight, when it was going to really matter, she would confidently go up and do her job.”

Every competitive athlete wants to be the person teammates turn to when they struggle, when the outlook is bleak, when hope seems more like a wish than a lifeline. But Jardine didn’t just yearn to be that player, she proved herself that person — in the classroom, in summer workouts, in daily practices and every match, regardless of the score. In doing so, she became key in the Knights’ ability to avenge last year’s 6A championship loss to Copper Hills, the same team they beat this year to claim the 2020 title.

Her efforts earned her accolades, like AVCA First Team All-American, and it also earned her the chance to keep playing the game she loves on a scholarship to Big Ten power Wisconsin.

Jardine, who was a first team all-stater last year, finished the season with 496 kills, 276 digs, 43 blocks and 49 aces.

“She’s very driven,” said her mom, Paula Jardine. “She is just intrinsically motivated, maybe more than any other athlete I’ve ever coached. She is in the gym on her own more than she’s in the gym for practices.”

Paula Jardine was her daughter’s first volleyball coach, and said she still marvels over video of Lauren serving the ball overhand in fourth grade. The youngest of five, Lauren and her parents moved to Oregon for several years when she was in elementary and junior high schools.

“She’s a skinny little fourth grader serving overhand, and it was pretty impressive,” she said. “She’s always been super athletic in many different sports.”

In fact, she set an Oregon state record in the pentathlon in sixth grade.

“She had to compete against kids who were two years older than her because her age group competed on Sunday, and we chose to compete on Saturday,” Paula Jardine said, referring to their religious belief regarding keeping the Sabbath day holy as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “In seventh grade, she qualified for Nationals, but she didn’t compete for the same reasons.”

The family moved back to Utah, and Lauren Jardine began playing volleyball locally in eighth grade. Carlson said he first met her when she came to his club team tryouts as a freshman.

“She was one of those athletes who comes in the gym, and she just had a fire about her,” he said. “It was obvious, she loved competing, she loves volleyball. ... She is on this planet to jump high and hit the volleyball hard.”

Her leadership skills emerged as other players saw both her work ethic and her talent.

“Other girls were immediately drawn to her intensity and competitiveness,” Carlson said.

A senior season can be more complicated and stressful as players try to make their last high school matches memorable. But for Lauren Jardine, playing her senior season in the middle of a pandemic added layers of frustration and uncertainty that forced her and her teammates to adjust their mindset almost constantly.

“There was anxiety every week,” Carlson said. “The first time we had a major ‘This thing is real to us moment’ was when I got a call in the middle of practice from our (athletic director). He said one of our players sat next to somebody who tested positive, and now she has to quarantine for 14 days.”

He said they had several girls who “had to sit out because they sat next to someone unluckily at school.” The most difficult challenge was a 312-week stretch where they didn’t get to play any matches because their opponents were struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks or quarantines.

“We were so anxious to play,” he said, admitting they began worrying about whether they’d even get to finish their season. “We talked about that, and just tried to play for today. Play like this could be the last match of our high school season.”

Ironically — and thanks to the focus and leadership of seniors like Lauren Jardine — the COVID-19 realities led to more gratitude.

“Every match was an opportunity to cherish, to fee feel gratitude for each other and the game,” Carlson said, “simply because we didn’t know if we’d get another one. ... We all felt super blessed to be able to compete for a state championship.”

And in that state championship, Lauren Jardine was able to end her high school career with the final kill of the championship match.

“It was a fitting end for her and for us,” Carlson said, noting that sometimes players like Jardine who are extremely driven can be too hard on themselves. “They try to take on the world themselves. They feel like they should be able to win every match, get a kill every swing. That’s one of the things Lauren did really well is recognizing that every play was not going to end perfectly. She grew into that, and found a healthier balance.”

Paula Jardine said Lauren loves books, music and her dog, Tucker. She plays the piano and flute, and she volunteered multiple times to sing the national anthem at tournaments in which she was competing.

“She had no fear, no stage fright,” Paula Jardine laughed.

Lauren Jardine will graduate from Lone Peak in December, and then she plans to head to Wisconsin to begin training with her collegiate teammates right after the holidays. The honor student (3.86 GPA), went to school online in an effort to protect herself and her family from COVID-19.

When asked what her daughter’s greatest strength was as a person, Paula answered “her determination. Anything she tries to learn, she’ll sit down and ... just work at it. She doesn’t get frustrated. She is willing to stick with it until she gets it right.”

And as an athlete, Paula Jardine said, “her athleticism. She touches 10-foot-6, so she jumps crazy high. ... And she is very eager to learn. She sucks in everything a coach says and tries to apply it. She is not always happy or easy on herself on the court, but it’s that striving for excellence that drives her.”