Lauren McCutcheon says she doesn’t feel any different than anyone else.
The truth is that the J.L. Mann junior may not be giving herself enough credit. McCutcheon racked up some impressive numbers on the volleyball court last season and gained state and national attention — despite being deaf.
McCutcheon, however, hasn’t allowed that be an issue.
The J.L. Mann Patriots outside hitter was named the Region 1-AAAAA Player of the Year and also earned all-state honors this past season. She was named the state’s American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Week during the season. She led the region with 358 kills and added 42 aces, 41 blocks and 224 digs. She has been named to the AVCA Phenom watch list, JVA watch list and Hub City all-tournament team.
With those numbers, it’s no wonder McCutcheon is getting the attention of college coaches. McCutcheon was born deaf and received an implant in her right ear at the age of 18 months. However, the University of South Carolina commit says when she hits the floor, everyone is equal.
“I’ve been fortunate to have played at Mann since eighth grade, so my teammates and I have become very comfortable together,” she said. “There are times my device goes out and they are great about looking at me so I can read lips or signaling with their hands to get my attention. I just love to compete, as well, and don’t consider myself any different than anyone. I just want to play every point like it’s a match point and give everything I can for my team.”
That attitude has translated into being a top recruit — not just in the area, but nationally. Making her college decision, though, one could say she was born to play at Carolina.
“I just love to compete, as well, and don’t consider myself any different than anyone. I just want to play every point like it’s a match point and give everything I can for my team.” – Lauren McCutcheon
Her dad, Jason Pomar, was a two-sport athlete in football and baseball for the Gamecocks, and her mom, Kendra Stout, was a softball standout.
McCutcheon said that it was an easy decision to spend her college years in Columbia.
“I did receive several offers, but I narrowed it down to Oklahoma and (USC),” she said. “I loved everything about OU — the athletic culture, the direction the program is heading and coaches. But I’ve grown up a Gamecock fan. My mom played softball there and my dad played football and baseball there, so I wanted to be a part of the volleyball program continuing to make a national mark and also continue the family legacy. My oldest sister, Jordyn, is also a freshman there. The coaching staff is top notch, and I love the idea of my family getting to watch us compete.”
McCutcheon’s abilities have been recognized well beyond the Upstate of South Carolina. She recently participated as a member of the USA Deaf National volleyball team that won a gold medal at the Pan American Games last month in Brazil. The USA team defeated Brazil 3-0 in the final.
Winning the gold medal did not come as a surprise to USA coach Lynn Boren.
“(I) decided to bring a group of young players to Pan Am to give them some international exposure and experience before we head off the World Deaf Volleyball Championships this summer in Italy,” he said. “I was not surprised that we went unbeaten. They are selected to be expected to win the Pan Am with their rich volleyball profiles and fitness competition.”
Boren said McCutcheon was a vital part of his team’s success.
“When I got a chance to meet Lauren in 2018 at AVCA Showcase in Minnesota, I knew she would contribute to USA Deaf Volleyball with her strong volleyball skills and parents’ support,” he said. “She unquestionably would help the competitive level in playing with other veteran players who did not attend Pan Am. I look forward to having them all in the summertime before going to Italy to see how they raise the game.”
J.L. Mann coach Kim LaBoard said McCutcheon is a valuable leader for her team.
“I have had the pleasure of coaching Lauren since her eighth-grade year,” she said. “She was a starter from the beginning for us on varsity. She has always been a special athlete with an incredible talent that everyone can see, but she is an even better teammate and person. She includes everyone, and her passion for the sport is contagious. She does all the little things that a coach can only dream of. She is the first in the gym and last to leave. She wants the extra reps and is extremely coachable. The coaching staff and team cannot be more proud of Lauren. She is the player you want to represent your program, and I’m so proud she represented Team USA and brought home the gold.”
McCutcheon’s trip to Brazil was coming off a disappointment in the state high school playoffs. The Patriots, who finished second in the region, advanced to the second round before losing to eventual state champion Nation Ford. Mann did beat Nation Ford in the first set before dropping the next three.
That loss has already started a drive in McCutcheon for next year.
“She has always been a special athlete with an incredible talent that everyone can see, but she is an even better teammate and person.” – Kim LaBoard, J.L. Mann coach
“We lost a lot of seniors that have been a part of making Mann volleyball what it is, but I know we have younger players that are ready to step up,” she said. “My goal is to leave Mann with a state championship in 2020.”
As for life beyond high school McCutcheon said that she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps and compete for SEC and national titles while being the best possible teammate and player. She’s also got her sight set on another gold medal next summer.
“It was amazing to play on a team with awesome girls that are hearing impaired, as well,” McCutcheon said. “Representing the USA was amazing, and I’m thankful to be a part of a great team with some great veteran leaders. These teammates in one trip taught me so much and left me hungry to learn to communicate better with them by learning sign language. Winning gold is indescribable, (and) going undefeated made it even sweeter.”