Issue #4 – Spring 2018

Click the link below to view issue #4 of the spring 2018 semester!

Issue #4 – Spring 2018

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Tennis Preview by Sadie Wise

Mississippi College’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis teams kick off their spring season on Monday, Feb. 12. The teams will make a short trip to Jackson to take on the Jackson State University Tigers for their first matches of the year.

David Boteler is getting ready to enter his 21st season as head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis teams at Mississippi College. Coach Boteler has experience in both Division II and Division III, as he has lead the Choctaws throughout the years in transition. Boteler managed to take his teams to the Gulf South Conference Championship last season, just a few years after moving up from Division III to Division II in 2014.

One thing MC’s tennis program isn’t lacking this year: leadership. Both the men’s and women’s rosters are packed full of seniors. On the men’s team there are 7 seniors, while 5 of the women as ready to take on their senior seasons. Two of those upperclassmen are Katie Reid and Sanders Barrick.

“It’s different this year, it’s my last one,” Reid said. P and workouts have been the same as usual as they prepare for the upcoming season, but the difference is Reid’s mindset going into the season as a senior. Reid is telling herself to “give it your all” as she awaits her last go-around as a part of the Choctaw team. One of her personal goals for this season is to be able to encourage the team. “We have really good recruits this year, and we’re going to be a really good team, so I want to be able to encourage and be there for them.”

As far as overall team goals, Reid says that the biggest focus for the Lady Choctaws is to be able to be one of the best teams in the GSC by the end of the season. “I’m expecting us to be towards the top,” Reid said.

The senior leadership role is very important for Reid. “A lot of us are seniors, we’ve been there, and we’re experienced,” she said. As she gets ready to enter her fourth and final season as a Choctaw, Reid says her favorite part about being a part of the team are the road trips. “The uniqueness of having a family away from home, that’s been the best part for me.”

Another Choctaw senior is Sanders Barrick. Barrick came to Mississippi College as a freshman just three and a half years ago, having grown up with a family of tennis players and athletes. “My brother played tennis, my mom played tennis, my dad was a basketball player, and they were all pretty much college athletes.” Being the youngest in his family, Barrick says finishing up his final season at MC means a lot. “It’s like an ending of a book for my family,” the senior said.

“It’s gone by fast,” Barrick said of the arrival of his senior season. “I remember walking in here and talking to Coach about attending school here, fast forwarding to now, I’ve loved every bit of it.”

As far as preparing for this season, Barrick feels that the coaches have prepared him and the rest of the players for the start of the season by having two-hour practices each day along with strength and conditioning throughout the week. Barrick also mentioned the importance of the guys working out on their own time as well. “We all work our hardest, and that’s how we prepare.”

Staying in the doubles line-up and just simply staying healthy are two of Barrick’s personal goals for the year. Like the women’s team, the men are working toward making an appearance in the GSC Conference Championship again this year.

In 2017, the women made it to the quarterfinals of the conference tournament, while the men were able to push through to the semi-finals. “It all depends on conference play, and where we finish. The top 8 teams make the playoffs,” Coach Boteler said. Last year, both the men and women finished fourth in the conference.

As for the seniors on the team, Coach Boteler says “it’s always kind of bittersweet.” Boteler explained that there is excitement around bringing new players in, though. “We have 3 new girls this year, which will give us the most depth we’ve had.”

Coach Boteler has high expectations for both teams this year. He says the ultimate goal for the men and women this season is to finish top 2 in the GSC. “It’s a tough conference.”

With key contributors returning from last year, both the Men’s and Women’s teams should be able to clinch spots in the playoffs for the second year in a row. Both Choctaw teams face their first conference rival, the West Alabama Tigers at home on Feb. 28.

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Another College Rivalry Story By Madison Brown

When you think college sports, you think rivalry. Ole Miss and Miss. State. Alabama and Auburn. Michigan and Ohio. Rivalries that extend into areas not even related to sports, and Mississippi College has one, too. A rival so big that even wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day is considered treason. Hashtags and buttons that read #bEATtheOkra can be found all over campus and on social media starting a week before game day. So who is our rival?

Delta State.

This rivalry goes back decades. The two schools have competed in almost every major sport starting as early as the 1930s. Before the Choctaws left the Gulf South Conference in 1996, the competition between these two teams was intense, but now back at Division II, Mississippi College students and the Clinton area have been reminded of just how big this rivalry is.

Athletic director, Mike Jones, said that MC alum had one thing on their minds when the Choctaws moved back to Division II, “Beat Delta State.” He said, “They knew how important it was. The renewal of this rivalry is great for athletics, for the state, and for both of these schools.” Convincing students to get involved however, is a different story.

Mississippi College and Delta State have always fought for the Gulf South Conference championship title, and assistant athletic director, David Nichols said it’s always nice to have “bragging rights over your rival team.” He said, “We’re trying to get our student athletes to appreciate the rivalry and get back to what it once was in the 80s and 90s.”

The younger generations don’t remember how intense the rivalry was before the Choctaws left the GSC. Don Lofton, head coach for the men’s basketball team, said that since the Choctaws have moved back to Division II, hopefully the rivalry mindset will come back as well. “I think interest from the fans will grow.” He said it’s healthy for MC athletics to compete in such a rivalry because the athletes and coaches look forward to facing the Statesmen.

For former choctaw football players like Dr. Jim Turcotte, this rivalry is personal. “When I was a student, they were our number one rival. We prepared for them all year.” Like others, Turcotte hopes that students will learn more about the history of the rivalry and invest into it as years go by. He said, “They don’t understand how important it was for us to beat Delta State when we were athletes. We didn’t care if we won another game all year, as long as we beat Delta State.”

This isn’t just a rivalry on the basketball court or the football field though. It’s a battle on the recruitment field, too. Delta State and Mississippi College are the only Division II schools in the state which means they’re constantly fighting for recruits. Coach Lofton said, “In college athletics it comes down to players. Beating Delta State would help us gain back the respect we need in the athletic program.” MC athletes recognize the rivalry as well.

Sophomore, Choctaw women’s basketball player, Kaitlyn Thompson is from Cleveland, Miss and she understands the weight of a game against Delta State. “Coach Duke tells us that every game is important and that this game is no different. You have to have the mindset to play every game your hardest, but this game is a little more personal.” She said that having friends and family from her hometown cheer against her team just makes her work even harder to get a win.

Going into last week’s basketball game against Delta State, seniors like Antonio Johnson really wanted a win. In his four year career at MC, Johnson has only won once against the Statesmen. He said, “To win against them while I’m a starter would mean so much more to me than people understand.” Even freshman Lauran Sheriff understands the importance of a victory over Delta State. She said, “We know they’re tough, they’re quick, and they’re of course our rival team which means we have to beat them.”

In their first meeting of the 2017-18 season, the Choctaw men and women’s basketball teams played a tough game against the Statesmen but were unable to pull away with a win. Since returning to the GSC in 2014, the Lady Choctaws have only won twice against the Lady Statesmen. For the men’s team, the Choctaws have only won once in the last four years.

Although the Choctaws were defeated by the Statesmen last Saturday, both the men and women are looking forward to their next meeting on February 22 where the Choctaws will compete in their final regular season game against Delta State in Cleveland, Miss.

Choctaws vs. Statesmen. It’s a traditional rivalry, but one that is well-respected across the state. A rivalry that began many decades ago, and one that will forever have Choctaw fans cheering, “Beat Delta State!”

 

Choctaws Basketball Keeps on Kicking. Josh Clark, Contributing Writer

mens basketball.PNGEveryone loves a good underdog story. In fact, some of the greatest stories in the history of sports involve an underdog. In these stories, a certain athlete or team overcome seemingly insurmountable odds in the face of doubt and uncertainty to pull off an incredible feat.

The exciting yet potentially demeaning thing about being an underdog is that no one expects anything of you. Underdogs are typically written off, aren’t projected to do anything impressive, and are typically excluded from playoff talks prior to the beginning of the season.

Ever since Mississippi College joined the Gulf South Conference as full-time members of NCAA Division II athletics just before the 2016-17 academic year, they have served as the underdog in a variety of situations. Maybe it’s the adjustment period that comes with the transition, or maybe it’s simply the fact that MC is up against an entirely new animal in the GSC. Whatever the case may be, the Choctaws have been forced to navigate a tough road over the past two seasons. One of those tough roads is on the basketball court, specifically for the men’s team.

In their first season as full-time members of the GSC last year, the Choctaw men’s basketball team struggled to gain traction. Although they had a surplus of talent and had spent the past two years playing conference competition, something went terribly wrong. The Choctaws finished dead last in the GSC standings in 2016-17 with a record of 7-19 overall and 4-18 against conference opponents.

“Even though we didn’t do well last year, I think we were better than our record indicated,” said head coach Don Lofton. The Choctaw basketball team could not seem to string together any consistency and struggled to find the win column, even with a rather skilled and deep lineup.

Last season’s struggles mixed with the Choctaws’ newness in the conference led to a lack of respect or expectations for the team coming into the 2017-18 season. In the preseason power rankings, the Choctaws were picked to finish 12th out of the 14 GSC basketball teams. They were dismissed and ignored entirely and expected to do very little.

But now that the 2017-18 basketball season is a little over two months in, one thing is clear: the Choctaws aren’t backing down.

MC currently sits in a tie for ninth place in the GSC standings with a record of 7-8, including a 4-6 mark in conference play. While that may not seem altogether impressive, the top eight teams make the GSC Tournament which takes place in early March. So, the Choctaws are still very much in the fight. And with a little over a month to go in the season, there is still a great opportunity for the Choctaws to do something big and make it to their first GSC Tournament.

“We just took the negative and made it into motivation,” said senior guard Antonio Johnson. “We’re trying to stay positive. We know people are doubting us, but we come together as one team, and we are going to keep fighting to the end.”

The Choctaws have plenty of talent in their lineup this season, including returning guards Antonio Johnson and Otis Harvey. Both players have played in all 15 of MC’s games this season and are helping the Choctaws put together an exciting and encouraging run.

“Coach has been telling us always that it’s a new year,” said Harvey. “The key to having success is believing in ourselves no matter what other people think, and we all believe in each other. That’s what coach has been preaching to us since day one, so we believe. We just have to get the job done.”

The Choctaws have received significant help from some of their older talent this season. Johnson is leading the team in steals (18) and minutes (31.8 per game), while senior Stacey Mack leads the team in points (15.8 per game) and rebounds (7.5 per game). Their contributions, along with the depth of the Choctaw bench, have aided MC in getting to where they are now.

But things aren’t getting easier. After winning four games in a row during the Christmas break, MC has now lost three GSC games in a row. A large reason in this skid is the absence of Stacey Mack and Isaiah Austin from the lineup. Both players are ineligible to play for the rest of the season and will be sorely missed on the team.

“That’s really tough,” said Harvey. “Our offense is based on our post players, and when we lose key pieces like that it makes it very difficult. We have to try and come up with a new game plan every night and see what works.”

“We’re playing a different lineup now since we lost some guys, and some of the new guys are young and just haven’t gotten some areas worked out,” said Lofton. “It’s going to take us some time. Even though we’ve played a lot of games, we haven’t played a lot of games with this lineup. We don’t have the luxury of playing exhibition games to help get us ready. We’re right in the middle of the Gulf South Conference race, but we’re not going to make any excuses.”

But even with their absences, the Choctaws are still finding ways to fight. Junior guard Donovan Ham has been an incredibly bright spot for MC in his first season in Clinton. He is averaging 14.6 points per game, including shooting 41.7 percent from the three-point line. He’s contributing in a variety of areas and is providing the MC basketball team with a nice balance of speed and skill.

“He’s just been really good,” Lofton said of Ham. “He does a nice job on both ends of the floor. We’ve enjoyed having him. He has some size that we haven’t had on the perimeter and he brings that. Obviously when he’s going good, we’re a good team.”

With just a little over a month left in the season, the Choctaws are in a corner and have to fight their way out. The team has 10 games remaining on their schedule, all of which are against GSC opponents. With MC being two wins out of both fifth place and last place in the standings, there is a great opportunity for the Choctaws to take advantage or fall behind, depending on how they play it.

“We just have to stay together as a team and keep executing and defending well,” said Donovan Ham. “Defense is really the key. If we play great defense, I feel like we can beat about any team in the GSC. We just have to stay together, keep hitting shots, and keep focusing. We’ll make it to the playoffs doing that.”

It’s fun being an underdog, but it’s even more fun when you capitalize on it. With the odds stacked against them, can MC go the distance and make it to the tournament? Whatever happens, it’s promising to be a fun ride to the finish. Buckle up.

Track Teams Prepare for Samford Invitational. By Madison Brown

track and field.PNGComing off of a seven week break, the men and women’s track teams will compete in the Samford Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., this weekend. The last team event was held in early December, so both teams spent their first week of practices to get back into a routine. Sophomore Luke Govero and Senior Kiana Grant are two key members of the Choctaw teams. Govero competes in the multi-event, while Grant specializes in long jump, triple jump, and long sprints.

Both the men and women’s teams train and condition together, but practices are divided by event. Jumpers from both teams will have run-through practices where the athletes focus on technical details such as take off, landing, and form. The runners then meet up to train together for their specific events.

Grant explained that each member was sent a workout to follow over the break in order to keep up an active routine. She said, “It’s difficult to come back after a break, but there’s nothing like practicing with a coach and your team. When you’re alone it’s kind of hard to motivate yourself.”

Govero competes in the decathlon which consists of events like the 100 meter dash, 400 meter dash, hurdles, pole vaulting, discus, and other field events. He says he doesn’t have a favorite, but “discus and javelin are really fun, and I’ve grown to like the pole vault.” Most of his time is spent practicing alone, but he enjoys getting to spend time with his teammates at group practices and on road trips to each meet.

Grant says that as meets get closer, their practices get lighter and more technical. She enjoys forming relationships with her teammates as well. As a senior, she finds ways to connect with the younger members on the team. “I see myself as a motivator and a friend.”

Preparation for each meet looks the same for Govero and Grant: lots of mental preparation. For Govero, each event in the decathlon is one after another so he tries to “not get too focused on each event but be prepared for the event as a whole.” Grant goes through a really long warm up on meet days but says “mental preparation is key.” Listening to music is her go-to option for staying focused. Both Govero and Grant have goals they want to achieve going into the rest of the spring season. Grant is still recovering from a summer surgery but hopes to have a great last season. Her goal is to improve on her current marks and defend her position on the team.  Govero said he wants to continue to do his best this season and “qualify for nationals, both indoor and outdoor.”

Women’s Basketball: Mid-Season Summary. Sadie Wise, Contributing Writer

womens basketballMississippi College’s women’s basketball team is coached by Paul Duke, who is on his 23rd season as the leader for the Lady Choctaws. During his past 22 seasons as head coach for the Choctaws, Duke has been very successful, accumulating a record of 356-204.

The team, which is made up of mostly younger players, has faced some adversity this season due to injuries. Because of this, Duke has had to use multiple, varying lineups since the season started back in October.

Things finally seem to be looking up for the Choctaws, though.

On Monday, Jan. 15, MC’s women’s basketball team geared up for their holiday match up against the Montevallo Falcons in Mississippi College’s Golden Dome. The Choctaws went into the game with a record of 5-10, with hopes of clinching their second conference win of the season, and that’s exactly what they did.

Key player Kelley Allen led the Choctaws with 21 points in the game, freshman Lauran Sheriff was close behind Allen with 16 points, and Ieisha Lacey contributed 15 points to the win. The Lady Choctaws maintained a lead throughout the game and extended it to a 15-point lead to seal the deal in the closing minutes at A.E. Wood Coliseum.

“Our girls are starting to get used to each other,” Duke said after coaching the team to their second GSC victory this season. “We’ve played a lot better offensively and defensively.”

He said his No. 1 goal for the team right now is getting each player back from the plague of sickness and injuries that has affected the team this season. Injuries to key players like Kelley Allen have forced some other ladies to step up.

Duke says one of those players is Kaitlyn Thompson, who is a sophomore forward from Cleveland, Miss. She had eight points last Monday against the Falcons from Montevallo. She said the team had time to hang out before the game so they were very focused and ready. “That’s always been my favorite part of basketball: my teammates,” Thompson said. When asked how the victory against the Falcons has helped the team, Thompson said, “I think we have some momentum now.”

As for the injuries the Choctaws have had to deal with this season, Thompson admitted that it’s tough, but it’s just a part of sports. Duke also mentioned Hannah Shafer as a leader for the Lady Choctaws, after her return from being out since the second week of October.

With 11 games left in GSC play, Duke hopes to have everyone back and healthy for the remainder of the season. “I hope with everybody back that we play hard, and we can win any of these games if we stick together and get a little bit better each day.”

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