Mississippi College Softball: A Championship Culture By: Sadie Wise
Mississippi College’s softball team has established a winning culture over the last few years. The team won the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA) National Championship in 2016, and brought the Gulf South Conference Championship title to Clinton in 2017. As they approach the conclusion of regular season play, the Lady Choctaws have one thing on their mind: another championship.
Head Coach Brooke O’Hair has been at Mississippi College for over a decade, so she knows what it takes to build a successful program. “You always have to set that standard. Every year, that’s your goal: you want to win a championship,” O’Hair said. “Thankfully, we’ve been able to set the bar high for the incoming girls, and then you have the seniors who want to go out on top.”
One of those seniors is Kristen Gardner. “Winning last year was absolutely amazing. It was one of the best feelings,” Gardner said. She feels that the team really proved themselves in 2017. “We’ve got a target on our backs this season. People are coming after us more than they did last year. We definitely have to be more resilient every time we play,” said Gardner.
Gardner says the team’s No. 1 goal is to win a national championship, of course, but she explained the importance of working towards that goal with a “one game at a time” mentality. Gardner says she feels the team has finally gotten into their groove for the year. “We’ve really done a lot better about coming together as a team and are executing really well in all areas,” she said.
Being a transfer, Gardner says it really meant a lot to her that the coaches trusted her abilities coming from junior college. “My experience here has been amazing. The environment of the school and my teammates – everyone is so uplifting.”
So far this season, the team is 19-11 overall, with a record of 12-8 in conference play, with a stretch of GSC match-ups in the near future. At this point in the year, the coaches have been putting more emphasis on the little things. “Keeping everything fine-tuned is key,” O’Hair said.
Assistant Coach Leigh Streetman spoke about what it’s like for her to be a part of the softball family at MC. “Coming into a program where winning championships is normal is awesome; it really gives the girls a competitive edge. They know what they’re capable of,” said Streetman.
Looking towards the future, Streetman feels that the championship culture surrounding the Lady Choctaws is what enables the program to recruit top notch athletes. “Winning championships is what’s going to continue to give us the success that we want,” she said.
“The great thing with winning championships is that you get a lot of attention,” O’Hair said. “Every kid wants to be a part of a championship program. That’s what you dream of as a little kid.”
As long as The Lady Choctaws are able to continue to bring home the championship trophies, there may be a lot of young girls with dreams of wearing blue and gold one day.