The MC Baseball Team Hits a Wall, but Looks to the Future, Corey Rholdon, sports editor

The Mississippi College baseball team is looking to get past the “Dog Days” of the season. After starting the year 18-4, the Choctaws baseball team has hit a rough patch, going 4-5 in their past 9 games, but Mississippi College ace Chris Crosby and catcher Brandon Broussard believes the team will get back to their winning ways.

Broussard knows this team is more complete than in years past, and he hopes that will get the team out of this slump. “This year’s team gels a lot better than last year’s team. We have a lot of arms in our pitching staff this season. If someone is struggling, we have someone who can fill. Our hitters starting out in the beginning of the year were leading the conference in batting averages at .380, and we are pretty confident hitting the ball and scoring runs,” said Broussard.

A big part of the Choctaws’ success this season has been their pitching staff, especially the three starting pitchers, who have a combined era of 3.54. Crosby is one of the pitchers having an outstanding season, and he believes the pitching staff deserves more credit. “Our pitching staff has been pretty solid. I feel like a lot of guys do not get the credit that they deserve. Our hitters are good, and we have a really good lineup, but our pitching staff has been pretty good as well. We have Hunter Mullis who has been phenomenal for us this year; Zach Ingram has been doing pretty well; and our bullpen for the most part has been lights out. Every pitcher has his days, but for the most part we have been locked in and on,” Crosby said.

It helps a pitcher to know that they have a defense backing them up, and the MC team has a really good one. “Our defense is phenomenal. I am the type of guy that is going to pound the strike zone and attack the hitter, and having a defense behind you that is one of the best in the GSC makes it easier to pitch. We have the best outfield in the GSC. I have full confidence in my defense, especially behind the plate with Brandon Broussard. It is honestly a blessing to have a defense like we do,” said Crosby.

Broussard has been a quiet hero on the baseball team, as his leadership and toughness has built confidence for his pitchers. “That is our guy. Broussard has been a dawg for us all year. I can’t say enough good things about him. He has caught every single game for us, even though he has been banged up with a dislocated shoulder and all kinds of things. He is the best catcher I have ever had in my life,” said Crosby.

It is not just the starting few who are having a great year for the Choctaws, but the relievers too. “Brandon Kennedy is the first person that comes to mind as a reliever; he has come in and helped us out a lot. He throws a lot of strikes and gives us an opportunity to get outs. Austin Chastang has come in and thrown a lot of zeros for us as well. Our relievers have been really good this year,” Broussard said.

Mississippi College had a tough loss recently, when the team gave up 7 runs in the 9th inning to lose to Montevallo by the score of 12-11, but Broussard still believes in his relievers. “Ryan (Lane) is a very consistent guy for us, but he just had an off day yesterday and we still believe in him. Normally when we put him in that position he is going to perform well, and it is just baseball. So you live and forget,” Broussard said.

After a team meeting, Crosby wants the team to compete and bring it every single game. “I expect us to really bring it to people. We came out really hot. We kind of hit a wall these past couple of weeks, but we brought the team together and had some heart-to-hearts. I really feel like that is going to change our aspects and mentality for the rest of the season,” said Crosby. “We cleared the air. I felt like we did not have much closure as a team, and we needed to address some problems that we had with guys not playing up to par. We know we are a pretty good team, and we know what everyone is capable, of so we were just encouraging guys to believe in themselves,” Crosby said.

Mississippi College is currently in 6th place in the GSC with a record of 11-6, and the Choctaws can improve that record this weekend in a home series against Christian Brothers.

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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.

Choctaw Football Team Continues Spring Practices By Madison Brown,

The Choctaw football team began spring practices earlier this semester and is already making adjustments. Athletic Director Mike Jones announced in January that both Paul Rasmussen and Tommy Laurendine would join the Choctaw coaching staff as the new defensive line coach and offensive coordinator. Along with additions to the roster and coaching staff, the Choctaws have also incorporated new schemes to the playbook. Head Coach John Bland said the majority of their spring practices are spent learning the new plays and adjusting to different coaching styles. He said the players have accepted the new coaches well and “We’re seeing some positive things out on the field.”

Until last Friday, all spring practices were in preparation for the annual Spring Game scrimmage where the Choctaw offense battled the defense. Now, Bland said their attention will turn to staying in shape and keeping grades up, because the main focus for Choctaw athletics has always been academics.

A large portion of the team roster consists of transfers from around the country, so there are always adjustments to be made both on the field and in the classroom. “We’re gonna really focus on academics and hopefully finish this semester strong, so these guys can continue to be here and play football for us,” said Bland.

Colton Magee and Tiberias Lampkin are two seniors on the Choctaw football team this season. Both athletes transferred to Mississippi College during the 2017 spring practice season.  Filling the outside linebacker position, Magee said the Choctaws are working hard to “put the pieces together” on the team. Magee said that in his final season at Mississippi College he wants to finish strong. “The coaches have given us a new game plan, so we just want to keep getting better,” said Magee. He hopes that this season they will have a strong support system from the fans since the team has been working hard all spring. He said, “We’re gonna compete, and it’s gonna be a great time.”

For the senior running back Tiberias Lampkin, spring season practices are spent learning to adjust to the new offensive coordinator, Tommy Laurendine. Lampkin has enjoyed getting to work with Coach Laurendine this season at his new full back position. “He’s been really challenging me mentally by showing me a lot of things that I need to get better at,” said Lampkin. The senior full back believes the team is really “drawing together” this season by improving their game both physically and mentally. Looking forward to his senior year, Lampkin just wants some victories. “I can’t stress that enough because I know Clinton is tired of losing,” he said. He said a winning season for the Choctaws “would mean a lot to this community and a lot to me. I just want to win.”

The Choctaws will begin their fifth season under Head Coach John Bland this fall. With eleven total games during the 2018 season, the blue and gold will play six contests at home in Robinson-Hale Stadium. Their first game will be a non-conference matchup against the Clark Atlanta Panthers who defeated the Choctaws 32-29 last season in overtime. The Choctaws will face eight Gulf South Conference opponents and end the season in Cleveland, Miss., against longtime rival Delta State.

Player Profile: Brenna Keller, By Carlie Prescott

 

Senior women’s tennis captain Brenna Keller hopes to leave a lasting impact on Mississippi College tennis, this being her last season playing tennis for Mississippi College. Keller said it is bittersweet for such a huge chapter of her life to be coming to an end.

Before coming to Mississippi College, Keller was in the United States Military Academy. She joined the MC women’s tennis team as a freshman and has worked tirelessly for the last four years to become the best tennis player she could possibly be. She said it has been an incredible journey being able to see how this team and each individual player has been able to grow over the past few years. “It has been a wonderful transformation going from the first year to this year – from average to dominant,” she said. Not only that, but, as a senior, she has been able to see what some of the younger players are capable of doing and how they can continue to be successful and lead the team in future years.

Keller said she is proud of the way the team has really been able to come together this year and “make it happen” on the court. She is proud to witness the confidence that each player has gained with every win they have achieved. She is proud to see all of the excitement expressed over their success. She said she is most proud of the way all of the girls have bonded together and have built such a special team. According to Keller, the team went from a team that expected a few losses in the season to a team that believed they could win every single match. They have been working extremely hard since day one, and she said their hard work is certainly paying off.

This season of tennis has been stellar, according to Keller, and it has been filled with nothing but joy. At this point, the team is still undefeated and for the program’s first time in history, they are nationally ranked at number 23 as a D2 tennis team.

Keller said the success of the team is partly due to the fact that they all feed off of each other’s attitudes and motivation. “A positive and well-functioning team fosters an environment for success,” she added. It is extremely evident that their positive attitudes and emotions have helped build up the team. She said it seems as though each individual player has been able to really boost their own confidence on the court, which feeds back into the positive atmosphere of the team as a whole. She added that apart from just having a successful season, all of the good vibes have really made this season fun and enjoyable.

As her final season comes to a close, Keller said she oftentimes finds herself thinking, “Wow, that was the last time I will play on these courts,” or “That was the last time I will compete against this team or that player.” Even though four years of great talent and experience or coming to an end for Keller, her impact on the team is something that will continue on past May 5.

Mississippi College Baseball Team is on Fire, Winning 10 of Their First 12 Games. Corey Rholdon, Sports Editor

The Choctaws baseball team has gotten off to a hot start. The team has won 10 of its first 12 ballgames including 4 against ranked opponents. Mississippi College needed to get off to a good start this season especially after starting 2-17 at the beginning of last season. MC did turn their season around last year finishing 20-28. Coach Haworth say the momentum of last year’s team carried over this season.

“It was crucial, last season we were 2-17 to begin the year but our guys did turn everything around. This year we walked into it believing that at the end of last year that we can win ball games, and we are good enough to be in this league,” said Haworth.

A big reason for the Choctaws success has been their bats. MC currently has 8 hitters batting over .300. “Our ultimate goal is to reach base, then to manufacture runs. If we are up 10 nothing, or down 10 nothing; our guys are not allowed to look at the scoreboard and we are supposed to manufacture runs every single inning,” said Haworth.

Mississippi College first basemen Blaine Crim feels comfortable knowing that if he gets on base, that one of his teammates will bring him in. “I think everybody builds off of one another. We are seeing good pitches and we are not missing right now. I think we have a really good lineup, we are getting on base and letting the lineup work,” Crim said.

Crim has played third base most of his career at Mississippi College, but this season coach Haworth made a switch. Haworth decided to put Crim at first base and Billy Cameron at third. The switch has paid off, Cameron is hitting .400 with a team high 3 homeruns. “We are just trying to get all of best players on the field. Billy is a really talented third basemen with a lot of range,” said Haworth.

“It is something we talked about coming in, and I know coach really wanted me to play third and Blaine is an incredible athlete so I don’t think the transition was with me it was more with Blaine. He has handled it exceptional,” Cameron said.

These Choctaws are a complete team, while their offense is really good; their pitching staff has been dominant. MC has three good starting pitchers; Chris Crosby, Hunter Mullis and Zach Ingram. But it’s not just their starters, the Choctaws bullpen has also stepped up and closed games.

“Early on when we faced Lindenwood College we do not know how we were going to start those 3, but Crosby has really shown consistency on the mound and so has Mullis. Ingram had a banged up shoulder during the fall, so he has been trying to find himself on the mound. He has done that in his last two outings.” Haworth said. “Those guys have been getting us deep into the game, and letting our bullpen work because we have a pretty good bullpen and that is why we are able to finish off games,” said Haworth.

The baseball program has completely turned around from a few years ago. The team believes that is from their chemistry and selfish attitudes. “We have three standards that our guys live by, that is Faith, Selfishness and relentlessness. We are not going to be a selfish group of guys, we are going to take care of one another. We give our season to Christ,” said Haworth. “We have had two guys be saved this year, Coach Perez our assistant coach was baptized and we have seen things changed in our program, and that what we want to see happen to other people,” Haworth said.

Crim has seen that change of culture on the field too, especially since his first year at Mississippi College. “Drastically, first year we could never really put it together, and we struggled that season. Last season I thought the same thing was happening when we started off 2-17 but something clicked. We had a culture change and we started winning. We wanted to transfer that over to this year, and it did” said Crim.

Coach Haworth does not want his squad to get complacent, he just wants his team to play Mississippi College baseball “Don’t let success get into your head, we are out to prove that we are better than what we are. Once we get to a place that we figured it out, then we are going to start slipping and humbleness is going to set in. I think what we have to do is keep worrying about manufacturing runs, putting 0’s on the board and doing the little things right. Make sure we are doing this for Christ,” said Haworth.

Cameron sees a lot of potential with this ball club “We can’t try to do stuff too fast, or try to be players that we are not. We all have our role and the time we hurt ourselves is when we get out of that role” said Cameron. “This year we started strong, and we are going to finish strong too. I came here to win Championships, and I really do believe that we have the team to do it” said Cameron.

Mississippi College travels to face the Shorter Hawks in Rome, Ga this weekend before coming back home to face Lee University in the GSC home opener.

Lady Choctaws Finding Their Groove As 2018 Season Gets Into Full Swing Josh Clark,

A season in any sport is kind of like a ball of clay in the hands of a potter. It may be solid in the beginning, but it’s got some obvious flaws. It may be rough, misshapen, or even unbalanced. But that’s why the potter is there to smooth everything out and turn it into a work of art.

 

The 2018 Mississippi College Lady Choctaws softball team is a lot like that blob of clay. In the beginning, they started out with plenty of kinks. But those kinks are quickly being molded out as the season goes along. And that’s exciting for the 2017 Gulf South Conference Tournament champions.

 

The Lady Choctaws started their season on Feb. 3, 2018 in the Southern Softball Showdown against Palm Beach Atlantic University. Here we are one month later, and it’s clear that MC isn’t exactly where many expected them to be at this point.

 

The softball team currently sits at a record of 7-7 including a 2-4 mark in GSC play. While that I not necessarily a bad spot to be, it’s not exactly the ideal start, especially for a championship-caliber team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last season.

 

“So far, we’ve had kind of a rocky start,” said junior third baseman Kristen Qualls. “But I think we’re finally getting it together and figuring out what we need to do, where we need to be, and people’s roles on the team. I think it’s coming together well.”

 

While this is an encouraging sign to hear, it’s also an encouraging sign to see.

 

When the Lady Choctaws began their 2018 season, the only consistent thing seemed to be their inconsistency. MC would win a game 8-3 and follow it up a few days later with a 10-2 loss. After going through some ups and downs through the first two tournaments of the year against non-conference opponents, the Lady Choctaws finally settled into conference play at the GSC Opening Weekend Festival.

 

But the festival ended up bringing even more uncertainty. The Lady Choctaws went 1-2 throughout the weekend and were outscored 25-13 over the span.

 

Was it time to hit the panic button? No, because there’s still over 30 games left in the season. But it was definitely a time to question just how prepared MC was to defend their title and reputation.

 

The Lady Choctaws then headed off to West Georgia where they dropped the set two games to one. The series loss turned out to be another frustrating step in the road of progress.

 

But that’s what it is all about: progress. The Mississippi College Lady Choctaws know that, and still believe that this season holds incredible potential.

 

“There have been a lot of highs and lows and a lot of ‘test’ for this team,” said assistant coach Leigh Streetman. “I think with that happening early on is going to push us through with GSC play and the remainder of our midweek games. We have enjoyed seeing the team friendships being formed and life of the team. This group is special and has no limits.”

 

That’s due to a few different factors. For one, the Lady Choctaws are still showing signs of being a great team on the mound, in the field, and at the plate. Their offense and defense are taking significant steps in the right direction with each passing game and turning up the heat.

 

“We are showing snippets of what we could do as a whole,” said Qualls. “I think that when the hitting becomes consistent for the duration of the season, the pitching and defense are there, and all of the aspects of the game are there, I think people are going to be surprised at what we bring to the table.”

 

“We have a great pitching staff, a great offense, and a great defense,” said junior pitcher Penny Nichols. “Once those come together, it’s going to be an amazing thing. We are going to explode and do great things in the GSC and hopefully win another championship and go further.”

 

Another promising aspect of their play this season is quite simply their leadership. Of the 18 Lady Choctaws on the roster, 11 of them are either juniors or seniors. That not only injects a lot of returning talent into the lineup, but also gives MC certain players to lean on in different situations.

 

“Both senior and junior classes play a huge role in leadership as they outnumber the underclassman,” said Streetman. “The younger ones look to them for guidance in certain areas. The upperclassman are the ones with experience in big games and allow the freshman and sophomores to grow and mature to prepare us for postseason.”

 

Qualls is one of those leaders as she is currently in the middle of her third season with the Lady Choctaws. Qualls is second on the team this year in homeruns, including back-to-back homers against the University of Montevallo in MC’s first GSC win of the season.

 

“Just trying to make sure everyone’s head is on straight,” Qualls said of her role as a leader in the dugout. “Sometimes, my head isn’t on straight and I have to take a step back and remember that I am a junior this year that has to lead by example and lead by what I say. [I’m] just trying to take these younglings under my wing and get to a championship.”

 

But there’s also a new crop of Lady Choctaws in the lineup that are chomping at the bit to help keep the MC’s tradition of success alive on the softball diamond. One of those is freshman second baseman Kayla Murphy.

 

“I think after getting to know each other as the season goes on and getting to grow as a team, there’s nothing that will be able to stop us at all,” said Murphy about the potential that the team has yet to reach.

 

And as we’ve seen throughout the history of sports, confidence can help a team dig into the fight as well.

 

But where will that confidence spawn from? It could come from the Lady Choctaws’ next matchup this weekend at Shorter University. Maybe it won’t show up until next weekend when they take on Lee University at home. Or perhaps it already spawned on Tuesday at Miles College.

 

MC picked up two decisive wins against the Golden Bears, and many Lady Choctaws are hoping that those wins will serve as the turning point for their season going forward.

 

“Definitely,” said Nichols in regards to whether the wins over Miles could help the Lady Choctaws turn a corner. “We saw things starting to come together there. Hopefully we put things together there and go from that point.”

 

There is still a long way to go before MC reaches the finish line on their 2018 regular season, and the Lady Choctaws have a lot left to prove. But that’s exciting for this new group that’s having fun with each other both on and off the diamond as they continue growing into a singular unit.

 

“We have a lot of crazy personalities on this team, but that’s what makes us special,” said Qualls. “I think that’s one thing that will lead us to a lot of success this year. That’s what we do: we have fun when we play and when we do that, we’re successful.”

 

“We have a ton of energy in the dugout,” added Nichols. “Everyone is up and crazy. It shows on the field too. Everyone has each other’s backs. It’s awesome.”

 

The 2018 Lady Choctaws are a lot like a rough ball of clay pulled from its container. Without a potter, they are nothing. But with the idea of progress serving as the potter, there is a whole world of potential on what they could become. And as the season goes along, they are quickly smoothing out and finding their shape.

 

“I’m excited that people are going to be upset,” said Qualls. “People are going to be shocked when we come back from 7-7 and we’re going to be successful and continue to compete.”

 

“The run will come,” added Streetman. “We just have to trust the process and know it’s still early. This team is special and when we show up we will be hard to beat.”

 

With a full slate of GSC opponents on tap over the next few weeks, all we can really do is sit back and watch as the 2018 Lady Choctaws continue finding their form. But that’s what makes the journey all the more exciting out at the MC Softball Complex. Let’s see just what this Lady Choctaw softball team can become.

Strong Out the Gates By: Damon Wright

There is just something about spring time that gets everybody in a good mood. Whether it be the changing of the weather, the exciting feeling of spring break, or even all the midterms we will all do great on (okay, maybe not those). One thing is for certain though: Choctaw spring sports have started, and they have started hot. The baseball team is currently 10-2, the softball team is currently on a two-game winning streak, and the men’s and women’s tennis teams are off to 4-2 and 7-0 respectively.

 

The tennis team’s strong start can be attributed to the strong play of senior leaders on the teams, strong recruiting classes, and improvements from both 2017 squads. On the men’s side, senior captain Sanders Barrick talks about the mental fortitude of the team that has carried them throughout this hot start: “It’s more mentally, we have a bunch of seniors on our team; we have the skills and the seniors and just mentally being prepared and going out on the court and thinking we can win the match every time we are out there is a big thing for us,” said Barrick.

 

The GSC is strong in tennis, holding three nationally ranked teams in West Florida (#1), Valdosta State (#5), and Auburn-Montgomery (#22), but Barrick’s expectations and goals remain high: “We have a great conference in tennis and I think making it to the semifinals or finals in the conference would be a great achievement, and finishing third would be perfect … I think if we are third in the region we can make it to regionals.” Barrick, one of seven seniors on the team, has set selfless goals for himself and looks to leave behind an unforgettable legacy: “I just want to be a good leader for my team and I only play doubles so just winning every doubles match and getting that point for my team is a big goal for me … just making it to regionals would be a big stepping stone or even being ranked would be great legacy to leave on the tennis program,” said Barrick.

 

The women’s tennis team is off to an incredible 7-0 start to the season, including two wins over conference foes West Georgia and West Alabama. The Lady Choctaws have not only won, but relatively dominated their opponents, beating four teams by 9-0. Senior Brenna Keller commented on the team’s strong start to the season: “Our work ethic this season and practices on and off court has been a lot better and we have recruited a couple of new girls for this season and their added level of play has definitely helped increase our line up in general and we are all excited and confident and our first few wins just added confidence,” said Keller.

 

There are very few missteps for the Lady Choctaws, but Keller harkened on one small improvement that she would like to see across the team: “Comradery on our team, I think we are super close but we need to work on our cheering off court and working with our teammates … making sure every one is pumped up during matches and maybe getting a little more excited during the match,” Keller said.

 

Though the team is off to such a hot start, Keller knows that it is important to not get complacent, especially as conference play begins: “The work ethic off court is most important, we can’t let ourselves slack off, we have to keep the confidence and work ethic up, and keep everything up in practice and hopefully relay that to wins on court,” said Keller.

 

This year’s women’s tennis team boasts a bevy of talent, including five seniors who have made large strides since their first season at MC. Keller knows this strong bond and chemistry makes things on the court a whole lot easier for the team, especially with her doubles partner, Anna Marie Kimball: “We are both from Louisiana, so we knew each other a little before this. She is super fun to play with and is always pumped up for our matches and very consistent … we are all pretty tightknit; we go out to eat a lot, hang out, and go to movies and on the court, we just want each other to be successful and that really builds confidence,” The growth of the team from day one has been evident, and Keller believes she, along with the senior class, have left a legacy that can be built upon for the future: “I feel like we have grown as players and people and I feel like we would just like to leave a team that continues to get stronger and I would like to see them win just more and more,” Keller said.

 

It all starts from the top when it comes to both tennis teams. Coach Boteler, who has been at the helm for the Choctaws for twenty-one years, is respected by both squads and leaves a lasting impact on all his players: “Coach Boteler is definitely one of the greatest guys I have ever met in my life … he is the nicest coach I have ever met, probably the nicest coach on the campus; he is so understanding and has his priorities … if anybody has any issues, he is the first to step up and help … he has also helped a lot of people spiritually and overall he has had a great impact on everybody on this team,” says Keller.

 

Men’s captain Sanders Barrick also adds a little about Boteler: “He is the nicest man you will ever meet … he is just like a father or brother to everyone and is everything you need …. I remember walking into his office the first day and him hugging me and treating me especially kind and wanting to know who I was, and he does that to every player that walks in here.”

Both men’s and women’s teams hosted West Alabama last Wednesday. The men fell short to West Alabama, 4-5, while the women’s team extended their streak to seven wins by beating the Lions, 6-4. Both teams look to jump up in the rankings as conference play begins to ramp up.

 

 

 

There’s a New Family in Town Madison Brown, Contributing Writer

Tommy and Shawna Laurendine are the newest additions to the Choctaw coaching staff at Mississippi College. Individually, the Laurendines have a lengthy resume of coaching experience, but Mississippi College is only the fourth university they have coached at together. The husband and wife team spent six years as head coaches for volleyball and football at the Division III school, University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., before heading to Clinton, Miss.

Athletic director, Mike Jones announced in Jan., that the couple would be joining MC’s coaching staff. Shawna Laurendine is the new Lady Choctaws head volleyball coach. Jones said that the athletic department looks forward to her leadership because she “is very knowledgeable about the Gulf South Conference and knows what it takes to win.” Shawna brings with her 15 years of head coaching experience which includes nine in the GSC. A graduate of the University of Montevallo, Shawna has coached at a number of schools including West Alabama and former GSC member Southern Arkansas University where she was named GSC Coach of the Year.

Tommy Laurendine filled the offensive coordinator position for the Choctaw football team, and brings GSC coaching experience with him as well. Tommy spent time coaching multiple GSC football teams like West Georgia, West Alabama and former GSC member Southern Arkansas University where he coached with current Choctaw head football coach, John Bland. Bland is “thrilled about the opportunity to work with Tommy again” because he is “the type of high-character man we want representing Choctaw football.”

Moving for a new job in a new state was exciting for the Laurendine family, and the transition to Clinton has been smooth so far, but with two daughters, there were still some concerns. The hardest decision for the family to make was whether or not to move to a new house and city, again. Tommy said, “we had built a house where we were living 3 years ago, so just the moving aspect of it was hard. We knew after time though, that it would be worth it.” Because the majority of their coaching experience was spent in small towns, the Laurendine’s feel like they’ve moved to the city. “Our daughter’s favorite part about the move is that we have a Chick-fil-a five minutes down the road” said Tommy.

Aside from the chaos of moving houses, the Laurendine’s are excited for another opportunity to coach at the same university. While never coaching the same sport, Tommy and Shawna both spent time at West Alabama and Southern Arkansas University. Shawna said the transition from Sewanee to MC wasn’t difficult because she and her husband were able to work at the same place. “It creates a better culture for our family if everyone’s on board and we’re all with the same program and supportive of each other” she said. Tommy added that, “it’s been a blessing that we’ve been able to obtain jobs at one university. We’re fortunate.”

The transition to another school was not a new experience for the Laurendine family, but it did take time, and when the position for volleyball head coach became available, it extended the process even further. Tommy had been talking to Coach Bland for a while and arrived in Clinton two weeks prior to Shawna. He said he spent his first few weeks at MC “getting paperwork done and meeting coaches and players.” For Shawna, making the move mid semester was a new experience. She said starting practice and getting their daughter into school has been “a whirlwind, but now I feel like my heads above water and it’s been great.” Tommy said that even though the process did take a while “it was all worth it.”

The biggest challenges for the couple over the next few months will be finding balance and time management. Tommy said “we’ve always done a good job over the years of not taking work home. We rarely talk about football or volleyball at home unless it’s pertaining to our daughter’s playing volleyball.” What they’re most looking forward to is getting to know people, making new friends, and winning football games. We just want to enjoy our job” Tommy said.

Shawna hopes to gain the support of students and the community in the coming seasons. She said, “The volleyball team would love to have fan support in the fall.” She wants to see the bleachers full in A. E. Wood Coliseum next season cheering on the Lady Choctaws. To the football fans, Tommy asks for patience. He said, “I know how the Division II level works, and there’s a transition period, but we have some good coaches and we’ll get things going.” Mississippi College is one of the only private schools in the GSC so it’s taken time to progress, but Tommy said, “We’ll turn the corner here soon.”

Both Shawna and Tommy want Choctaw fans to know that as a family, they’re excited to be here in Clinton, and they’re looking forward to working with Choctaw athletes and coaches over the coming seasons. So, Choctaw fans get excited to welcome the Laurendine’s to the MC family!

 

 

 

 

“Go Big or Go Home” By: Sadie Wise

A.E. Wood Coliseum just got a whole lot brighter. On Feb. 9, two new scoreboards were installed in the Golden Dome at Mississippi College. The boards have been a long-awaited upgrade, as the old ones had been up for almost two decades. The old boards included basic functions like keeping score and time, but now, there’s almost nothing the new ones can’t do.

There were two brand-new scoreboards installed in the coliseum, but the biggest upgrade is the one on the east end of the gym. The board, which is made up of several smaller LED screens, measures 16 feet tall by 26 feet wide and reaches across nearly the entire right side of the wall behind the goal, replacing the banners that once hung there.

David Nichols, the Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications at Mississippi College, explained that a new video board had been on the program’s “wish list” for a while, but it was just a waiting game when it came to funding. “We eventually had some people step up and say they wanted to help us out with this idea,” Nichols said.

Oscar Miskelly of Miskelly Furniture, and Bob Boyte of Bob Boyte Honda were two contributors in the funding of the new video board. Long time Athletic Director Mike Jones said, “Oscar was out here one day, and he asked me how big we were going to make it.” Jones said he told Miskelly that they’d make it as big as they could with the funding that was provided. It was then that Miskelly said, “We gotta go big or go home.”

“It took us about a year to get everything locked down on pricing, what we wanted, and how we wanted it, but once we did, we were finally able to pull the trigger,” Jones said. “We’re very thankful for Bob Boyte and Oscar Miskelly.”

As far as capabilities, the new video board can do a lot. “It’s a much more detailed board,” Nichols said. “We can keep up with the players who are in the game, how many points they’ve scored, and how many fouls they have.” Along with displaying more game details, the board also enables the program to run advertisements and show crowd interaction. “We have the capabilities to run just as much video as we want up there,” Nichols said.

Nichols also touched on the fact that the new board could be used as a recruiting tool. “We can bring recruits in, put their names up on the board, and make them feel welcome,” he said. Jones added that along with recruiting, the new video board will improve MC’s game day environment. “We haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg with what it can do and what we can do with it,” Jones said.

Nichols and Jones both feel that the new board will give the basketball and volleyball teams an elevated home court advantage. “We just want to create a really good environment for our players, students, and fans,” Jones said. “When other teams come in here, it’s definitely a wow factor,” he added.

Not only will this board be used by the Choctaw teams that play in A.E. Wood Coliseum, but there is potential for it to reach the MC student body along with the Clinton community, as well. “The thought is to eventually have movie nights in the coliseum using the new board,” Nichols said after explaining how they can transform the screen to play any type of video. “With the movie night idea, there are options for us to advertise them as fundraising events, it really does give us an opportunity to involve others,” Jones added.

We could be seeing some more upgrades to the coliseum in the future. “The long-range goal is to improve the seating on the upper level,” Jones said.  As far as a timeline, there really isn’t one. “All of these things are based on when we’re able to secure funds.” Jones explained that this applies to all the athletic facilities within the department, as they plan to renovate other facilities around campus in the future.

Both Nichols and Jones encourage the faculty, staff, and students of Mississippi College, along with the community to come out and see the new video board, and support MC’s student athletes.

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