Booneville, Miss. – Ben Shappley and the Northeast Mississippi Community College tennis teams finally have a permanent residence once again.
The newly renovated Northeast Tennis Courts are set to host seven matches as part of a 14-game 2014 schedule for the Lady Tigers and Tigers.
Both Northeast squads were forced to hold their home contests at BNA Bank Park last season due to the construction. While Shappley is appreciative of the chance to play at the award-winning facility, he is proud to be back in Booneville for the upcoming campaign.
"We were actually very pleased to get the opportunity to play on the new courts at New Albany," he said. "But this year with our courts being resurfaced we're excited about playing our matches right here at home."
It will not be until after spring break, though, that the Lady Tigers and Tigers will get to showcase their new accommodations. Meridian Community College's nationally ranked teams, No. 14 in men while the women fall at No. 19, are the first guests to compete on the dark blue-on-light blue surface in Booneville on Tuesday, March 18.
Northeast opens the season with a lengthy road swing that spans nearly a month. The lid lifter is slated for Friday, February 21 at Hinds Community College, whose men are ranked No. 24 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA).
Away dates with Copiah-Lincoln Community College (February 22), Meridian (February 27), East Central Community College (March 4) and Holmes Community College (March 7) also line that stretch.
Shappley noted that the institutions in the southern and central parts of the state normally have better weather to compete in early in the campaign.
"We are actually chasing the warm weather down south for the first few matches," said the second-year head coach. "Of course, as last week would indicate we may be headed for worse weather."
With the blooming of flowers in the spring comes a nice interval of five straight outings at the Northeast Tennis Courts in the final days of the regular season. It starts on Friday, March 28 when Jones County Junior College visits the Lady Tigers and Tigers.
Other keynote dates in that period includes April 1 when the 17th-ranked East Central men come to Booneville. Both of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College's squads that appear in the ITA poll, No. 19 men and No. 22 women, wrap up the home portion of the schedule when Northeast hosts them on April 11.
"It is going to be very tough competition," Shappley said, "but we're excited about the upcoming season and all the possibilities."
The Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) State Tournament will be hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast from April 24-26.
Northeast aims to improve from last year's teams that won a combined five games, two of them against rival Northwest Mississippi Community College.