CALEDONIA -- Imagine stepping out of your comfort zone and into a current of volleyball players more than 2,300 teams strong.
Bailie Cross and Ansley Brown had a chance to do that last month as part of the Level Elite Sports 18s and 14s travel teams that competed at the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) National Volleyball Championship on June 19-22 in Orlando, Florida.
STARKVILLE -- The options on both ends of the court make Vic Schaefer smile.
A year ago, Schaefer had plenty of reasons to smiles as the Mississippi State women's basketball team won a program-record 28 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the second time. The Bulldogs reached those marks with a point guard -- Morgan William -- who often was at less than 100 percent due to a leg injury -- and a freshman -- Jazzmun Holmes -- as the backup point guard.
WEST POINT -- The Oak Hill Academy and Hebron Christian baseball teams combined to put seven players on the All-Mississippi Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) teams, which were released earlier this month.
OXFORD -- Matt Insell can't believe the transformation Shandricka Sessom has made.
In just two years, Sessom has gone from a player who was reluctant to
take her shot and to assert her will on games to being one of the go-to players on the Ole Miss women's basketball team.
Now, Sessom is ready to add a running mate who can match her shot for shot.
Gracie Plant, Kat Sykes, and Haley Marie Fisackerly can't help but smile when asked about the changes Tom Velek has brought to the Heritage Academy girls soccer program.
Whether it's the amount of running, the skill work, or the changing practice plans, there have been plenty of adjustments the players have had to make for their new coach.
Cass Tapley never really was "away" from the Hebron Christian fast-pitch softball team.
As the father of two girls who played softball at the school and with a son who was a multi-sport standout completing his high school career in 2016, Tapley always seemed to be at an event supporting the Eagles, whether it was as a parent, as a fan, as a photographer, or as an assistant coach.
WEST POINT -- Mitch Bohon appears to be in an ideal situation entering his second season as the Oak Hill Academy fast-pitch softball coach.
MACON -- The T-shirts have a two-part message: "DON'T QUIT. DO IT."
STARKVILLE -- Music is a great way to bring people together.
McKenzie Bumgarner has grown up with the Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball program.
Thomas Stevens has a new appreciation of the word "busy."
Following a standout junior season for the New Hope High School baseball team, Stevens set out to raise his profile in hopes of attracting an offer to play baseball in college. Despite hitting a team-best .381 and smacking seven home runs, Stevens entered the offseason without any college offers.
STARKVILLE -- Alicia Mardis refuses to take the blame.
After all, she was merely playing basketball as an eighth-grader at Coconut Creek High School in Florida when she noticed her sister, Jacaira Allen, watching her. She didn't realize she was making an impression on a younger sister whose only athletic claim to fame to that point was playing football in the street with the local boys.
OXFORD -- Erika Sisk usually is too quick to take a hip check in practice.
Whether it's the Ole Miss senior's track and field background or the boundless energy she brings to the basketball court, Sisk can zig and zap and push tempo with the best guards in the Southeastern Conference.
It's difficult to fathom the lengths a team has to go to win a championship when it has to compete against 343 others from across the country.
But Eric Dubose, Joe Caruso, Thomas Wilson, and their East Coast Sox Diamond 16-and-under baseball team didn't focus on the enormity of the challenge they faced earlier this month.
STARKVILLE -- Aaron Gordon already has started to take stock of his stuff.
From books, to furniture, to paperwork, to mementos, Gordon has accumulated plenty of things since he was hired as Mississippi State women's soccer coach on Nov. 27, 2012.
If the start of the 2016 season didn't provide enough reasons to be excited, Gordon is anxiously awaiting another announcement: the date he and his team will move into their new home.
Todd Griffin doesn't recall how he came to be the baseball coach at Hebron Christian.
Travis Garner was shocked when he returned to the state of Mississippi in 2013.
OXFORD -- Together. Toughness. Forty minutes.
Danny Crawford appreciates the opportunity he had to work at West Lowndes High School for the 2015-16 school year.
In one of the school's most successful seasons, Crawford led the boys basketball team to the Mississippi High School Activities Association Class 1A State title game and the girls basketball team to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Tom Velek has faced plenty of challenges in 12 years of coaching soccer in the state of Mississippi.
Velek's decision last month to accept the job as girls soccer coach at Heritage Academy created an opportunity to face a new challenge: coaching the game in the summer heat of Mississippi.
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