Booneville, Miss. – Northeast Mississippi Community College's five spring sports are nearing the start of their 2014 schedules.
The Tiger golf team gets the slate kicked off on Sunday, February 9 with the first of a two-day Mississippi Association of Community and Junior Colleges (MACJC) tournament at Great Southern Golf Club in Gulfport.
Northeast's linksters catch a lucky break during the typically cold opening month of the season with 60 degree temperatures and sunshine forecasted for the event hosted by Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.
The conditions were something second-year coach Nick Coln was concerned about leading up to the opener.
"The weather plays a big part," he said. "Last year, in every match but one it was either raining or snowing. We've really, really got to concentrate on our game in those situations."
Coln's roster comprises of three sophomores and four freshmen that look to make vast improvements under his direction.
The nationally ranked Northeast baseball squad is the next to enter the field of competition on Monday, February 10 when Jackson State (Tenn.) Community College visits Harold T. White Field.
Ten athletes, including captains Luke Stanley and Riley Alef, return from the 2013 edition of the Tigers that claimed the MACJC North Division championship and defeated Mississippi Gulf Coast in the first round of the playoffs.
Northeast found itself at No. 20 in the National Junior College Athletic Association's (NJCAA) preseason rankings and hopes to continue rising in that poll.
"It's a reflecton on all the effort that the kids and the coaching staff have put in and the support that our community has put forth," Tigers coach Kent Farris said of the honor. "It's basically a reward for all the hard work that has been done over the past couple of years."
Eight of the first ten contests for Northeast are at home with MACJC North Division play starting in March.
Jody Long and his Northeast softball team have six games in their opening week of the campaign. The Tigers open at Jackson State on Wednesday, February 12 with their home lid lifter on Saturday, February 15 versus Dyersburg State (Tenn.) Community College.
The ninth-year headman of the Tigers hopes some early road tests will aid a young roster adjust to life at the college level.
"It gives us a chance to really let our group see that this is a big step up from high school when you drive 30 minutes down the road to play somebody," said Long. "It will also allow our players to see what kind of commitment it's going to take for us to make it through the season."
Sluggers Bianca Chagolla and Haleigh Moffett return from last year's team that qualified for the MACJC State Tournament for the third straight campaign.
Ben Shappley's tennis programs do not start their years until Friday, February 21 at Hinds Community College, but it still does not stop him from being thrilled about competing against some of the top squads in the nation.
"It is going to be very tough competition," he said, "but we're excited about the upcoming season and all the possibilities."
Northeast aims to improve from last year's teams that won a combined five matches, two of them against rival Northwest Mississippi Community College.