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.

Really Big Rings for a Really Big Team by Corey Rholdon.

The Mississippi College softball team has built a foundation of success the past few seasons. The team won the NCCAA championship in 2016 and won the GSC tournament last season. The team has centered their culture on family and Christ, and that has helped them get through all of the ups and downs of the season.

This is Coach Brooke O’Hair’s 12th season as the Head Coach of the Lady Choctaws. O’Hair knows that many teams have talent, but not many of them have the chemistry to win a championship. “We try to build a family atmosphere, and we try to put Christ first. Since we have that strong foundation, all of the ups and downs of the season do not affect us that much. That is the main reason that we were that successful. Yes, we had talent; yes, we had the power and the speed,  but there are a lot of teams that have all of that, and the thing that sets us apart is that foundation with Christ,” O’Hair said.

Senior Kathrine Lee is the school’s all-time leader in stolen bases and hits in a season. Lee is the leader of the outfield, and she sees a team that loves to be around one another. “We held it together; we loved playing with one another. If you love being on the field with someone, then you are going to play well together,” Lee said.

Junior Kristen Qualls came from a championship program at Madison Central so she knew what a championship program was like before coming to Mississippi College. “I came from a winning culture in high school, and when I came here I wanted to continue to bring that winning culture to MC,” she said.

The NCCAA championship in 2016 wasn’t just the first softball championship for Mississippi College, but it was the first softball championship for the entire state of Mississippi. That is a historic accomplishment and it will always have a special place in Coach O’Hair’s heart. “It means everything, that national championship is the very first national championship in the state of Mississippi. So not only was it huge for Mississippi College and our softball program, but it was huge for the state of Mississippi,” O’Hair said.

No one expected the Lady Choctaws to win the GSC last season, even after a NCCAA Championship. It was Mississippi College’s first season eligible to compete for a title. But O’Hair and her squad did not care. “That one was sweet too, just because back when we were Division II, I was not a part of that – so being able to do that again and to go out in our first season of eligibility and win the GSC (which is the toughest conference in Division II) is amazing. Who would have thought that we would have done that in our first season? That was special because no one expected it but us,” said O’Hair.

All of these rings show how much progress the softball program has made over the years, and Qualls now wants a National Title. “It shows how much progress we made; we came from Division III, where we were successful, and went to Division II, where we have been successful. We just want to keep winning and showing people that we are good enough… so far, we have built up the winning and we are going to try to continue and go for a Division II ‘Natty’ this year,” Qualls said.

Lee sees her legacy beyond the diamond as something that could be special for years to come. “It builds a foundation for the future, and it shows that our programs are definitely something you should want to be a part of,” said Lee.

Every team is different, but this year, the Lady Choctaws will have a lot of new starters, but that doesn’t mean the expectations aren’t high. “They got a little bit more spunk in them, and we do not have anybody that is on our bench that couldn’t also start for us,” O’Hair said. “We haven’t always had that, so our depth is really good. So if we have an injury or someone is in a slump, we can go to the bench and not skip a beat. That is going to really help out this program this season,” said O’Hair.

The biggest thing young teams have to overcome is consistency and communication. The Choctaw veterans know this. “We have a lot of new people on the field, and we have to try to figure out how to play beside somebody and how to communicate properly, learning the system. With all the weather, it has been pretty difficult to work on the communication and work on the strategy,” O’Hair said.

“I think we are a very talented team. That is for sure, but our consistency is not there right now. We are going to get to a point to where the consistency is going to be there, and when that happens, we are going to be very successful,” Qualls said.

Now that the team has won the NCCAA Championship and the GSC Championship, they want a bigger prize; a National Championship. “I want another championship, and the key every year is to win a championship. Of course, it is not always a national championship. Last season we won the GSC and went to postseason play in Division II. Now it is all about going further in the postseason to work for that national championship,” said O’Hair.

The team starts GSC play early this season, so they will find out how much grit they really have. The Lady Choctaws will play in the GSC Opening Weekend Festival this weekend.

One Final Game in A.E. Wood by Madison Brown.

Mississippi College held the men’s basketball senior night on Wednesday evening in A. E. Wood Coliseum. Four senior athletes and their families were honored before their last home game of the 2017-2018 season. Antonio Johnson, Otis Harvey, Xavion Dillon, and Ricky Breakfield joined their families in center court to be recognized in front of the home crowd.  Each senior has a unique journey that brought him to his final home game as a Choctaw.

Johnson is the only senior player that has been with the Choctaws all four years of his college career. He said that in the beginning, his experience was rough. The McComb native made an appearance in only 17 games his freshman year but worked hard to earn his current position as a starting player. “I had to get used to the speed of things and the coaches, but overall, it’s been a great experience,” he said.

Johnson’s mother passed away earlier in the season and emotions ran high during the halftime ceremony. He said that having the rest of his family with him to celebrate the night meant so much to him. “They support me in everything I do. We’ve continued to love each other even through such a hard time.”

Johnson’s favorite memories were made on the court at A. E. Wood Coliseum. He said playing for the home crowd is unlike anything else. With a great support system behind the team, the fans are what made his college career unforgettable. With all of his experience as a part of the Choctaw team, Johnson is a team leader and gives advice to the younger players on the team. He believes that the key to success for the future of the Choctaw team is “building team chemistry.” He hopes that in the coming seasons the team will make it to the playoffs and bring home a GSC championship.

For players like Otis Harvey, the Choctaw experience has been a little shorter.  Originally from Gulfport, Miss., Harvey is a transfer from Jones County Junior College. Harvey spent the last three years with the Choctaws, but missed most of his first season due to an injury. At one point, Harvey wanted to give up the basketball altogether, but decided he wanted to finish his career out strong. He said that during the time spent away from the sport he “gained a hunger for the game.” With only one game left in the season, he said the Choctaws are not giving up.

Xavion Dillon is from Tylertown, Miss., and a transfer from Southeast Missouri State University. Finishing his second year with the Choctaws, Dillon hasn’t seen as much playing time as the other seniors but has enjoyed his experience with the team just the same. “It’s been a long journey of ups and downs, but it’s been fun,” he said. He wishes luck to the Choctaw team in the coming years saying, “They’re young and talented. Going into next season, I expect great things from them.”

Ricky Breakfield is a walk-on from Wesson, Miss., and playing collegiate basketball was a lifelong dream. Breakfield made the decision to walk on for a spot on the Choctaw basketball team last year. Although he saw just a bit of playing time, he said his overall experience has been great. His time with the team has been short, but Breakfield said that it was easy to “click with the other guys” because of their different personalities. He’s grateful for the opportunity to join the team even though he spent the majority of the season supporting them from the bench. “God truly blessed me to get to fulfill this dream, and it’s been great,” he said.

Each senior athlete said that their best memories were simply spending time with their teammates. Road trips are the best way to form relationships that are key to having a successful team. With 15 games on the road this year, the Choctaws had plenty of time to bond. The team has one final road game of the season this Thursday night.  The Choctaws will take on GSC rival Delta State in Cleveland, Miss. Just like the last match up against the Statesmen, the Choctaws know to expect an intense game. These four seniors have given their all this season, and Choctaw fans can expect the same this week. The Lady Choctaws will tip off at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Choctaws at 7:30 p.m.

The Golf Team: A New Contender; A New Threat by Sadie Wise.

The Mississippi College men’s golf team is set to start their spring season on Monday, Feb. 26, at Spring Hill College for the Badger Invitational. The team is coached by John McMath, who recently retired from the mathematics department at Mississippi College.

Over the last several years, McMath has seen many differences in the program since he began his coaching career here almost 13 years ago. McMath was asked by athletic director Mike Jones to coach the team, but under unique circumstances: “I was asked to help raise some funds to support a golf team for three years.” If the team could make it those three years on donated funds, they would reinstitute the golf program at MC. The efforts were successful. Almost a decade later, golf is a thriving program on the campus of Mississippi College.

Like many coaches at MC, one significant change McMath noted was the transition he witnessed when the Choctaws went from Division III to Division II. “Moving from Division III to Division II has allowed us to give scholarships.” McMath explained that he has had some good teams in the past, but there’s no denying that the GSC is a league that is very good at golf. Assistant coach and former Choctaw Ethan Doan said, “there are five teams in the GSC that are in the top 50 in the country,” which makes for some stiff competition for the Choctaws, who sit at 93.

Last spring, the Choctaws were successful, bringing home a road win from the Buccaneer Spring Classic in Southaven, Miss. They were also able to claim a victory at home in the Mississippi College Spring Invitational. Those wins last Spring have given the team the motivation to work toward the same – or even better – results this year.

Zach Anderson, a junior on the golf team, expressed his excitement for the spring season to begin. “We have a pretty solid team; we should be able to qualify for regionals,” he said. Anderson started playing golf at the age of 5, when his dad began taking him to the course. “My dad was kind of my coach growing up,” he said.

Anderson has a few personal goals for the upcoming season. “I want to qualify for every tournament and have a scoring average under 76,” he said. Anderson also emphasized the quality of the competition within the GSC conference, saying “everyone’s good.” Despite the steep competition, Anderson feels that his team is good enough to make it far and finish in the top five of the conference.

As for preparation, Anderson said that golf off-seasons are pretty short. “We end our Fall season in November, and we start practicing for spring around the third week of January.” During the short period of time that they do have off, the team does some resting and focuses more on their time in the gym. Once it’s time for the season to start, though, it’s all course work.

“Last year, the golf program had its best year yet,” Anderson said. He is completely confident that he and his teammates will be able to break more scoring records this season and win some tournaments. “When we became DII, I don’t think anyone really feared MC, but now that the coaches have done what they have, we are definitely contenders and we are definitely a threat.”

Coach McMath encourages everyone to come support the golf team later in the season as they host their spring invitational tournament at Lake Caroline Golf Club, in Madison, Miss.



Former Mississippi College Choctaw is enjoying success in the CFL, by Corey Rholdon, Sport Editor

lylesFormer Mississippi College football star Chris Lyles is enjoying success in the Canadian Football League. Lyles signed a two year deal with the Saskatchewan Roughriders last May after he was released from the Indianapolis Colts rookie mini-camp.

The main goal for Chris Lyles is to one day reach the NFL, but for right now he is blessed and excited for his opportunities in the CFL. “I have one more season of my contract for the Saskatchewan Rough Riders because I signed a two year contract. So I want to finish my last season strong and the main goal is the NFL. That is where I am trying to go but the CFL has made me stronger, and it has made me appreciate the time that I am putting in. The good thing is that God is good, and if the NFL doesn’t work I could have a long CFL career” Lyles said.

Lyles played two seasons for the Choctaws where he had two interceptions and 7 pass break ups. He acknowledges that Mississippi College has helped him become the leader he is today. “Mississippi College taught me how to be a leader, someone who leads by example” Lyles said.

Professional football atmospheres are intense and it took Lyles a little while to get over that fear of playing in front of a huge crowd. “The first game I was really nervous. It was a preseason game against our rival the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. It was a sold out crowd, they had 30,000 people, and I have never played in front of a crowd like that before. I never have played in a quarter of the size of that crowd. I am not going to lie I was tickled, I was scared, I was nervous but that game really made a man out of me. It made me decide if I really wanted to play professional football or not” said Lyles.

Chris Lyles grew accustomed to playing in front of the “best fans in Canada”. It made him feel like he was playing in the NFL already. “Our environment is the best, we have the best fans in Canada. We had the best attendance in the CFL last season. That environment will scare you sometimes because how loud they are and how much they love you. At the same time they do not want to see you fail, they are behind you,” Lyles said. “I did real well in a game, and all these kids were screaming my name. They were like Mr. Lyles and I just gave them my gloves. I was like a hero to them and it was like playing in the NFL,” Lyles stated.

Canadian football and American football have some differences, and it took time for Lyles to adjust. “The field size in the CFL is a lot longer than American football. Formations are different, their receivers can move off of the line so I had to adjust. I had to use my brain more and it’s wasn’t about how athletic you are. It’s about technique. It is more of a technique type of game” Lyles said.

Lyles had to get out of his comfort zone in Saskatchewan, where he had to play the halfback position instead of cornerback. “In the CFL there is 12 guys on the field instead of 11, and I played a Nickle back or safety type position. That position is one of the hardest positions on the field. I was in that position because I was athletic enough and quick enough to play it. When I got there I had to adjust to the big field and there was a lot ground to cover. Halfback is a tough position but I like it,” Lyles said.

Adjusting to football wasn’t the only thing Lyles had to do. He also was adjusting to life north of the border. “Being so young and being so far away from home. It was tough but I had to adjust… The people were very different, it was a big variety of people, and at first I was uncomfortable because I did not know anybody. I really did not have anybody to relate to, but they still made me feel at home. They welcomed me with open arms” said Lyles.

His whole football career Chris Lyles relied on his athletic ability. Standing at 6’4 and weighing 194 pounds, Lyles was the perfect size for an NFL cornerback. His speed and athleticism is even more impressive. At his pro day, Lyles ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, had an 11’ board jump, and had a 39 inch vertical. But in the CFL Chris Lyles could not just rely on his abilities anymore, he needed to learn technique and become a student of the game.

“When I was in college I was so into my athleticism. I depended on my speed and my gifts for everything, but in the pro’s everyone is athletic and has talent. There is no way to beat someone without watching film and having great technique” said Lyles.

Lyles learned how to be a pro quickly, as professional practices are intense as they come. “CFL practices were very competitive and it is always the 1’s vs the 1’s. There was a lot of real game situations, and scheming against the other team” said Lyles. “We focused on their scheme and their key players. We watched filmed every day in the morning, and after practice. So it was film film film…” Lyles said.

If practices were hard, learning the playbook was even harder, as professional playbooks never stop growing. “The playbook was big. We changed plays after every week and there was a new playbook after every week. It was according to what the other team was doing, so one week we would be playing pattern reading, another week we would be playing man, and the next week we would be playing a cover 4/cover 2 type coverage” said Lyles.

In professional football, there are moments when you realize that you are playing against the world’s best athletes. Chris Lyles had that moment in his rookie season’s finale. “Last game of the season we played the Ottawa Redblacks and they moved me back to corner for the first time. There was a receiver who was really quick and fast. He gave me a welcome home, he was catching some passes and I said to myself that I need to “bow up” and I had to figure this out. I knew I couldn’t get down on myself, and I had to be strong” Lyles said.

After a moment like that, rookies can question if they belong in the league, but Chris Lyles remembered that he can play with these guys. He first realized that in the preseason where he stepped up when his team needed him. “It was the second preseason game and we played a great team called the BC Lions. We were in Vancouver we were getting beat kind of bad and our coaches were like we need someone to step up. Something went through me in that moment and I had my Father (God) with me. I made great plays, I had great tackles, forced fumbles and I had a real good game. That’s what showed me that I could play with the best” Lyles said.

Chris Lyles hopes his second CFL season is better than his first. His ultimate goal is to play in the NFL, and there has been a long line of CFL players who transitioned to the NFL. If Lyles keeps playing well, Mississippi College might have a Choctaw in the League.

Choctaw Baseball Is Back And Hungry For More: 2018 Preview Edition By Josh Clark

A lot of words can be used to describe a baseball team that starts their season with a record of 2-17. Pathetic, sorry, and unimpressive could all fall into that category. But what about the word hungry or determined? That’s highly unlikely, right?

Well, the 2017 Mississippi College baseball team obviously wasn’t one for following standard procedure. After starting their first season as full-time members of the Gulf South Conference at a mark of 2-17, the Choctaws rebounded in a big way and worked their way to a final record of 20-28, including 15-17 in the GSC.

“Last year, we were living on results and fear,” said head coach Jeremy Haworth. “We had a meeting in the locker room and decided that enough was enough and that we needed to be all in. Whether we are doing terrible and suffering together or we’re winning together, you have to ask yourself if you’re doing everything you can to be all in.”

The Choctaws finished the 2017 season on an incredible run and finished seventh in the conference. They advanced to the GSC Tournament and though they didn’t win it all, they left plenty of promise open for the future.

And that future is now. The Choctaws will start their 2018 regular season campaign on Saturday, February 3 with a three-game set against Lindenwood. After nine months of waiting to take that next step, it’s obvious that there is plenty of excitement surrounding the start of the season.

“It was awesome and I’m extremely excited to get going, especially since this is my senior year,” said senior outfielder Hunter Wilson about his offseason and his feelings about getting back to work. “I’m itching to get back out there with them since it’s my last one. I just hope it slows down.”

The Choctaws open this season with 11 straight games against non-GSC opponents before kicking off conference play in Carrollton against the University of West Georgia on Feb. 24. This season is promising to be a special one for a lot of reasons, but Coach Haworth is focused on one thing in particular: the team’s mindset.

“We’ve been doing something a lot different this year than we have in the past. We’ve always been result-driven in the past,” said Haworth. “This year, we really want to take it a little bit further of having our guys change a mindset of who they were and to really make it about doing everything in God’s name. That’s what we really wanted to focus on. So, everything we do is going to be done with our whole mind, body, and soul.

“We set standards for our guys: faith, selfless, and relentless. They have to live by those every single day. There’s been times where it hasn’t gone so well. But the deal is we learn to win together and lose together. That means when we do well, we all get to celebrate. When we don’t do so well, we fall at the same time. We’re learning that to be ultimately selfless in everything we do, it will help us be relentless going into the season.”

This new makeup and mindset is what Coach Haworth expects to drive the Choctaw baseball team through the 2018 season. And so far, it’s definitely rubbing off on his players.

“I really think that this team wants to make an impact,” said junior infielder Blaine Crim. “We just want to leave it all out there and give God the glory as much as we can. If we do that, there’s nothing really that we can worry about. If we leave it all between the lines and do everything we can, that’s all we can ask for. I think we have a bunch of guys who are willing and ready to do that. So we’ll see how it takes us.”

This Choctaws baseball team will offer plenty of new faces, including a few freshmen and transfers that joined the team over the offseason. According to Coach Haworth, these new additions could be the missing pieces that this team needs to make a serious push come early May.

“I think a lot of it is we’re filling in some holes offensively,” Coach Haworth said. “And don’t get me wrong, we’ve had a lot of success offensively here. But we have to keep that going. We’ve added some key pieces, like with Billy Cameron. He’s just a power-hitting third baseman that fills in that role that Chance Whitten left us with last year. But our pitching staff is the big one. We added some key pieces to the bullpen. We have guys that are your starters and are kind of like pace car guys. Then we feel like we have pretty good backend guys who can close out games for us.”

The Choctaws were picked seventh in this year’s GSC preseason poll and had three players selected to the preseason all-conference team: Hunter Wilson, Grant Barber, and Kyle Smith. The Choctaws are known for their offensive firepower, but struggled a bit with pitching last season. But even though none of the Choctaw pitchers made the preseason all-conference team, that doesn’t seem to bother MC junior pitcher Tommy Tabord.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” said Taborda. “All those guys show a lot of heart and they show that they want to be out there. Early on in the fall, we started off with a lot of injuries. But there were a lot of guys in the training room who were willing to get better and healthy. It just shows that they are dedicated and they are ready to buy in this year.”

The Choctaws will take on 10 different GSC opponents this season and have 30 different opportunities to claw their way up the conference ladder and make a run at the top spot. With the new recruits and new outlook, there’s plenty to be excited about for the Choctaw squad.

“The energy, for sure,” said Wilson. “I feel like the culture is starting to change. We come every day ready to work. There’s no lackadaisical efforts and everyone is on the same unit right now and ready to play.”

Wilson, Crim, and Taborda all mentioned the idea of beating as one heartbeat together as a unit this season and the potential that they can reach when they play with that synchronization.

“If we can get that one heartbeat mentality together, everything will play out and it will be fine,” Crim said.

This season is ultimately shaping up to be a special one for the Mississippi College Choctaw baseball team. It doesn’t seem like that long ago that they were in the cellar of the GSC standings and could not find their way out. But this season, not only do they have hope, but they also have a solid chance at making some serious noise around the conference and perhaps even in the College World Series. And for the team to accomplish that feat in Haworth’s third year as head coach would truly be something special.

“The culture is the biggest change for me,” Coach Haworth said. “The culture has gone 180 degrees. Just seeing guys step up to be leaders. It’s not all about the wins and losses; it’s about changing lives and being a man. I tell them all the time that God does not want their success, but rather their surrender. And once they figure that out, they will have all the success in the world. I think they’re starting to figure that out with being selfless.

“When I first got here, it had nothing to do with the team. Those guys have changed my life and the lives of the coaches, and we’ve changed each other’s lives along the way. It’s not about ‘me’ anymore; it’s what we can do for others. And that’s changed totally because of what the guys are doing out there.”

Last season was a reminder that all it takes is a little spark for a seemingly bad team to right the ship and make some noise. But now that the ship is back on track, where is it bound to go? A GSC title? Further? Now that the Choctaws have had a taste of the GSC spotlight, they are bound to want more.

“Just knowing that we’re able to do it,” Taborda said. “We didn’t really know that we could win that many games. We didn’t know that we could be good competition in the GSC. Now we have faith in that and have a lot more faith in our coaching staff and know that we can compete. Hopefully we understand at the beginning of the season that we can ride that wave and push on.”

Whatever the case may be, make sure to head out to Dickins-Scoper Baseball Stadium this spring and find out. Choctaw baseball is finally back, and it truly looks like the team has something special in the works. Chances are you won’t want to miss it.

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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