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West’s Carlini honored as nation’s top volleyball player

West Aurorsenior Lauren Carlini laughs during an assembly recognizing her as Gatorade National Volleyball Player Year. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

West Aurora senior Lauren Carlini laughs during an assembly recognizing her as the Gatorade National Volleyball Player of the Year. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media

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Best of the best

Previous Gatorade National Players of the Year from Illinois and their respective sports:


2012-13: Lauren Carlini,
West Aurora

2000-01: Ogonna Nnamani, Normal University

1996-97: Denise Boylan,
Benet Academy

Boys cross country

2010-11: Lukas Verzbicas,
Orland Park Sandburg

2009-10: Lukas Verzbicas,
Orland Park Sandburg

2007-08: Chris Derrick,
Neuqua Valley

Boys soccer

2000-01: Ned Grabavoy,

1992-93: Mike Fisher, Batavia

Girls soccer

2008-09: Rachel Quon,
Lake Forest

Boys basketball

2011-12: Jabari Parker, Simeon

Girls basketball

2003-04: Candace Parker,
Naperville Central

2002-03: Candace Parker,
Naperville Central


1988-89: Jeff Jackson, Simeon

Boys track & field

1999-2000: Donald Sage, Jr., York

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Updated: January 13, 2013 6:18AM

Maybe West Aurora High School teacher Randy Hayslett should have tried acting.

“He played the part amazing,” Lauren Carlini said of her second period economics teacher, who had a key role in helping surprise the Blackhawk volleyball standout Tuesday morning with the announcement she had been named Gatorade’s 2012 Volleyball Player of the Year.

“We were supposed to have a test but he said we were doing a review study game instead,” continued Carlini, who was called to the front of the class.

When a photo crew entered the room, Hayslett explained they were shooting video of the classroom environment for a presentation to the school board.

“But as I was at the board, they opened the door again and April (Ross) walks in,” said Carlini, who recognized the U.S. beach volleyball silver medalist from the London Olympics.

“I’m like, ‘Why is an Olympian in my economics class right now?’ And then I saw behind her the trophy and I just freaked out. I had no idea.”

Carlini, a University of Wisconsin recruit and multiple all-state honoree who will play this weekend as an Under Armour All-American in an all-star game at the NCAA Division I Final Four in Louisville, Ky., then was honored at an all-school assembly held third hour.

“It was crazy,” she said, moments after looking up into the bleachers packed with her classmates and making a poised acceptance speech, that included thanks to teachers, coaches, students and family members.

It concluded with special thanks to her mom and dad, Gale and Tony, “for telling me it doesn’t matter if you’re the best or not, just be passionate about what you do.”

On this day, she was honored for being the best of 400,000 high school girls who play the sport.

The award, presented in conjunction with USA Today, dates to the 1985-86 school year and now includes 50 state winners each year in each of 12 sports. Selections are made by a national panel based on athletic accomplishments as well as academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.

Other past winners from their respective sports include football’s Peyton Manning and Emmitt Smith, baseball’s Derek Jeter and Joe Mauer, volleyball’s Kerri Walsh and basketball’s LeBron James, Lisa Leslie and Candace Parker, to name a few.

Carlini is one of 12 national winners from Illinois who have claimed a national honor 14 times in the award’s history. Parker won the girls basketball honor twice, as did Sandburg High School cross country standout Lukas Verzbicas.

Carlini is also now a finalist for Gatorade’s National Female Athlete of the Year, who will be selected from the 14 national sport winners and named next July. She and her parents will be flown to Hollywood for the announcement, prior to the ESPY Awards.

A 6-foot-1 setter/right side hitter with a 3.73 GPA in the classroom, Carlini helped lead the Blackhawks to a school-best 32-6 record, a second straight DuPage Valley Conference title and regional championship with 333 kills, 303 assists, 92 service aces and 50 blocks while posting a .594 kill percentage.

A club player at Aurora-based Sports Performance for 11 years, Carlini represented the U.S. in international competition in 2011 in Turkey at the FIVB Girls Youth World Championships. She is rated the No. 1 recruit in the class of 2013 by

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