Volleyball was announced as Northeast Mississippi Community College’s newest addition to its athletic department in May of 2022.
Fast forward to present day and the Lady Tigers are finalizing preparations for their highly anticipated inaugural season. The team arrived to campus on July 30th with the first official practice taking place two days later.
Brenda Mayes has stayed busy over these past 15 months since being selected as Northeast’s head coach. Her duties have included recruiting, ordering equipment and organizing the Lady Tigers’ first-ever summer camps.
Mayes, who captured four high school volleyball state championships as an instructor in neighboring Alabama, believes that Northeast can find immediate success with the talent that she has pieced together on the initial roster.
“I know this is our first year, but this is not our first year around volleyball,” she said. “Our goal is to compete in every match. We’re coming ready to play. They know what it takes to win.
“They know my philosophy and what I expect of them. They know the work it takes to get to that level. We want to make this 75th year for Northeast and this first year for volleyball one to be remembered.”
Thirteen true freshmen make up the Lady Tigers’ lineup during this historic season. All of them boast playoff experience from their senior campaigns at the prep level.
Giselle Lopez of Belmont and New Albany’s Amberianna Shorter were two of the top defenders in the Magnolia State last fall. They were both recognized as the defensive player of the year for their respective divisions.
Cayleigh Shipman is a hybrid athlete that can attack and defend exceptionally. She was a first-team all-area pick by the Daily Corinthian after racking up 262 kills and 209 digs for state runner-up Alcorn Central High School.
Northeast has three outstanding setters in Cam Gatlin, Paris Morris and Kami Wilf. Gatlin was one of Germantown High School’s nominees for the prestigious Lindy Callahan Scholar-Athlete Award.
Tupelo’s Morris earned a spot on the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal’s All-Area listing after recording 327 assists, 102 digs and 34 aces. Wilf posted similar figures at Amory with 315 assists, 93 digs and 42 aces. Madeline Ledbetter of Red Bay, Ala., Irby Norris from Hernando and Pontotoc’s Anna Brooke Sullivan are the three tallest players for the Lady Tigers. They each stand at 5-8 or greater and are excellent offensively.
Ledbetter was a two-time all-area recipient from The Times Daily after accounting for 588 kills, 296 digs, 202 blocks and 143 service aces between her junior and senior years.
Joining Norris as an outside hitter are Skyla Adair of Tupelo and Lewisburg’s Avery Thomas, who is one of three Lady Tigers that performed in the Mississippi Association of Coaches (MAC) All-Star Game.
Six Northeast standouts also participated in the Northeast Mississippi Volleyball Coaches Association (NEMVCA) All-Star Game over the summer, including Adair, Lopez, Morris, Shipman, Shorter and Sullivan.
Rounding out the roster for the Lady Tigers are a pair of right side hitters in Elizabeth Gipson, who along with Shorter collected four division titles in a row at New Albany, and Madison Maxwell from Olive Branch.
“I’m a firm believer that you’re only as good as the players you have,” said Mayes. “Hopefully I’ve got the right crew that’s going to produce. They are good, skilled athletes. We’re looking forward to it.”
The Lady Tigers welcome Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University’s junior varsity club for their first home match on Monday, August 28. Region play begins the following week when Northeast travels to Northwest Mississippi Community College.