Booneville, Miss. – Two Northeast Mississippi Community College freshmen have been honored for showing characteristics above what a usual student-athlete is capable of accomplishing.
Wesley Brandon and Nikki Baird received the 2013 Tiger Award for the men's and women's tennis programs, respectively, for demonstrating the desired qualities and characteristics of an exceptional student athlete.
"These individuals are very deserving of the award," said Northeast tennis coach Ben Shappley. "They show up for practice, work hard, don't complain and are constantly improving. I think they want to do a good job and their work ethic verifies that."
Brandon achieved the initial win of his collegiate career on March 19 with a thrilling 7-5, 6-4 decision over Chase Black of Holmes Community College, which was ranked 23rd in the nation at the time according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
Just over two weeks later, Brandon pulled off another singles victory against a different Bulldog. After claiming a close 7-6 (10-6) win over Connor Wilson in the opening game, he put the match away with a firm 6-1 result for his second individual triumph over No. 23 Holmes.
The Belmont product proved his mettle in doubles competition as well. He and his partner, Hunter Seeley, downed the East Central Community College duo of Andrew Hanna and Hunter Mayo by an 8-6 score on April 1.
Brandon capped the 2013 season with two wins in one day against Northwest Mississippi Community College. He defeated Michael Moss 6-2, 6-1 in singles play before teaming with Seeley to conquer Seth Cook and Moss 8-1.
"I'm honored to receive this award to represent my team," Brandon said. "I'm looking forward to this next season to improve and do a lot better."
Baird put together a four-match winning streak in singles contests to conclude her inaugural campaign in Booneville and overall held a 6-4 record.
She registered her first-ever collegiate victory on March 1 with a 6-2, 6-1 sweep of East Central's Hayden Fryery.
A Houston High School graduate, Baird notched a signature win over then-No. 19 Meridian Community College's Stephanie Grayson. A back-and-forth struggle throughout saw the rising Lady Tiger take the match 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Baird also claimed two victories over Callie Swinney of Holmes and concluded her first season at Northeast with a 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Northwest's Kathryn Hutto.
"It's an honor to win this award," said Baird, who is also a member of the Northeast cheerleading squad. "I'm really glad that coach (Shappley) thought I was good enough to be the recipient."
Both Brandon and Baird return for their sophomore campaigns to lead a Lady Tiger and Tiger tennis program that is steadily on the rise.
"I believe we're looking at a very good season," Shappley said. "We have, I think, an all around good team. We've worked hard so far and I'm looking for good things."
The Tiger Award is given to a student athlete in each sport sponsored by Northeast that represents the institution with a positive attitude on-and-off the field or court and is actively involved in school functions and organizations.