New Year, New Coach, Same Goal By: Damon Wright
The 2018-2019 school year has begun and there is a new intoxicating aura of positivity on the Mississippi College campus. MC has ushered in Dr. Blake Thompson as its new president; he brings a youthful excitement with him and is looking to take the university to heights it has never been before. The football team has revamped on the offensive side of the ball with the addition of offensive coordinator Tommy Laurendine, and the team is looking as good as ever, and the class of 2022 has made its way onto the campus, along with other transfer students, setting MC for one of its best years ever.
The class of 2022 also brings in 12 new players on the volleyball team. This is more than half of the entire squad for the lady Choctaws, and they are already making a difference on the team.
Freshmen Outside Hitter Kendall Platt, in only her fourth game wearing the blue and gold, set the single match kill record with 23 kills in a tournament match against Southern Arkansas. She also recently received GSC freshman of the week on Wednesday, but these accolades are extra motivation for her to improve every day: “I’m not going to lie, it feels good, but it just means I am going to have to work harder in the future to match or beat that record … I have to keep up the effort. There is definitely more work ahead” said Platt.
Though the Lady Choctaws have added multiple new assets on the team, it was very easy for the players to build a tight knit relationship that is shown both on the court and off the court. Fall camp played an integral part in the team camaraderie and has made the team closer as a whole. Senior Defensive Specialist Jill Brown knows that the team is all in, and looks to push for success this season. “Fall camp was definitely challenging, but it brought us very close as a team; we had 12 newcomers on the team so it was basically a new team, but we all bought in from the first day, and we were like a family from the first day.” Brown, the lone senior for the Lady Choctaws, looks to leave her mark, both on the stat sheet and in the hearts of those that are around her. “I want to be the grittiest DS in the conference and get on the top ten for digs in a match and single season digs … I want people to remember that I am gritty, and I have amazing energy that everyone can feed off of: the fans, the team, even the trainers. I want to be known for contagious energy,” said Brown.
The new head coach for the Lady Choctaws is Shauna Laurendine. She is coming from The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, and has smoothly transitioned from Division 3 to Division 2. “It’s been great; the change here has been good, we were ready for a change as a family, going from division 3 to division 2 gives you a lot of different athletes, but I’m excited to be in the Gulf South Conference.”
Laurendine has already made a huge impact on the team not only as a coach, but also as a person. Platt praised her for her interest in having a close relationship with all her players. “She has been awesome, she really makes an effort to get to know each person individually, not just as a player, but also as a person, so it really helps to know that she is there for us.” The transition for Laurendine has been very easy due to the strong bond that the Lady Choctaws share on a daily basis. “These girls work really hard, and they are just a great group of girls … they just stay together as a team, they all love each other, and they hang out on and off the court. It builds great chemistry and that is the culture we want here,” said Laurendine.
Laurendine also has high praises for her captains and the type of leaders they are. “Shelby Grace Mays is probably our biggest leader on and off the court. She’s very positive and full of life, and the girls really respond to her well. Jill Brown has done a great job on the court with defense … everyone has done great job, it is difficult to pick just two out of this great group of girls,” Laurendine said.
The Lady Choctaws are currently sitting at a record of 2-2 and are heading to Arkansas on Friday, August 29th. The Lady Choctaws will open up conference play against the Tigers of West Alabama on September 11th and will play their home opener against the Argos of West Florida on September 14th.