Nicole Thorn, Head Coach
(903-693-2006 | firstname.lastname@example.org )
2009 Conference Coach of the Year
2009 Region XIV District L Coach of the Year
2010 Conference Coach of the Year
Former University of Florida All-American middle blocker Nicole McCray Thorn enters her fifth season as head coach at Panola College. In 2003, Thorn landed her first job as the head coach at Berry College in Rome, Ga., where she led the Vikings to an amazing turnaround that saw the team improve from a 10-25 season in its first year to 22-17 in its second. She coached three all-conference players in 2004, including the Southern States Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. Thorn was the first African-American head coach and the first female head coach in school history at Berry.
In her first season at Panola, Thorn finished the year with a 17-15 record and ended the season with a loss to Blinn College (2008 National Champions) in the Region XIV Semi-Final match. Thorn coached four All-Conference players and would later be ranked fifth in the country for the highest team GPA amongst Junior College Programs. The 2009 season would rewrite the history books as the Fillies advanced to the National Championship Tournament for the first time in school history. The Fillies finished the season 28-9 and tied for 11th at the National Championship Tournament. Thorn received regional and district Coach of the Year honors in 2009. In 2010, the #7 ranked Fillies finished their season with a loss to #5 ranked Blinn Buccaneers at the regional tournament. The Fillies finished the season with a 24-5 record. Thorn coached four All-Conference players as well as two NJCAA All-Americans. Courtnee Davis and Josiane Santos were the first to be named volleyball All-Americans in school history. In 2011, Thorn continued her success at Panola with another solid season, posting a 20-9 record and finishing 2nd in a conference that boasted five nationally-ranked teams, including 2011 NJCAA National Champion Blinn College. For the second year in a row, Josie Santos was named NJCAA All-American as well as becoming the first Panola player to ever receive AVCA All-American regonition.
The Longview, Texas native is well-known in volleyball circles for her accomplishments at Florida, where she helped lead the Gators to the 2002 NCAA Final Four as a senior and was a member of five straight Southeastern Conference championships, which includes a red-shirt year as freshman. The Gators also reached the NCAA Tournament's Elite Eight twice and sweet Sixteen once while McCray was in uniform. Florida advanced to the Final Four in 1998 and 2002. A second-team All-American in 2002, she also earned honorable mention All-America honors as a sophomore and junior. McCray was recognized as the SEC's Conference Player of the Year in 2000 and was a four-time All-SEC selection. McCray graduated as Florida's second-leading blocker with 529 total blocks, and her name appears throughout the Gators' record books. When she graduated, McCray was fourth on UF's career kills list (1,274 kills), seventh in hitting percentage (.352), eighth in games played (442), 10th in total attacks (2,533) and 10th in matches played (137). Her .402 hitting percentage in 2002 is the fifth best single season mark in school history. As a senior, she was the recipient of the Ben Hill Griffin Award, honoring Florida's top female student-athlete. She was also awarded the Sophia Witherspoon Award, presented to the top male and female athletes who exemplify the positive attitude and strong work ethic in the classroom that they display on the playing field. As a senior she received the Tracey Caulkins Award, given to the senior who possesses the traits of academic achievement, athletic achievement, leadership and involvement in the community. McCray also played professionally in Puerto Rico's Superior League for the Conquistadores de Guaynabo, based in San Juan, which competed for the league's championship in 2003.
Prior to her stint at Florida, McCray played internationally for the United States Junior National Team in 1998 and the USA Youth National Team in 1997. She was a first-team All-State selection for four years at Pine Tree High School and a two-time District MVP. She played club volleyball for East Texas Juniors and Texas Sport under Todd Lyles who assisted Thorn in her first season. In 1998, she was inducted into the Pine Tree High School Hall of Fame for her academic and athletic achievements during her four years. She received her B.S. in Commercial Recreation from Florida in May 2002. Nicole is married to Rufus Thorn and the couple and their sons Jordan (5) and Logan (1) reside in Tatum, Texas.
Amber McCray, Assistant Coach
(903.693.2007 l email@example.com )
Amber McCray is entering her second year as assistant coach for the Fillies Volleyball team. McCray came to Panola after spending three years working in Women’s Administration in the University of Florida athletic department. McCray earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2007, and then completed her sport management master’s degree in spring 2009.
While at Florida, McCray was a dominant opposite hitter for the Gators volleyball team from 2003-2007 and a two-year captain. Despite battling knee and shoulder injuries for most of her collegiate career, McCray still finished with 2nd Team All-American honors in 2006, 1st Team All-SEC honors in 2006 and 2007, AVCA All-South Region honors in 2006, and nominations to the Regional All-Tournament Team in 2005 and 2007. Her .351 career hitting efficiency is the highest in school history by an opposite hitter. It also helped her finish her career ranked 10th overall in the Gator Volleyball record books, right behind her older sister Nicole who is ranked 9th at .352. McCray is one of just five players, and two non-middle blockers, in UF History to hit .300 or better in each of her collegiate seasons. Her .370 hitting clip during her junior season set the UF record by opposite hitters and ranked 4th in the Southeastern Conference. McCray also led the Gators that year in kills per game (3.72) and points per game (4.19).
During her time at Florida, McCray also excelled off the court, earning ESPN The Magazine 2nd Team Academic All-American honors in 2007, ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District honors from 2005-2007, and SEC Academic Honor Roll from 2004-2007. McCray was nominated to represent UF at the NCAA Leadership Convention in 2006, and her efforts in the Gainesville community earned her a spot on the SEC Community Service Team as a senior in 2007. Her senior year, the younger McCray also received the Tracey Caulkins Award, presented to the top graduating female student-athlete who possesses the traits of academic acheivement, athletic acheivement, leadership and involvement in the community.
Prior to her tenure at Florida, McCray was a decorated three-sport athlete for the Pine Tree Lady Pirates. She became Texas’ first two-time recipient of the Gatorade High School Volleyball Player of the Year Award in 2001 and 2002. As a senior, McCray was also named the 2003 Texas Girls Coaches Association Volleyball Athlete of the Year and a Top 10 finalist for Student Sports Magazine’s 2002 Senior National Player of the Year. She began playing club volleyball for East Texas Juniors when she was eight years old and continued through high school. During her high school summers, McCray competed internationally representing Team USA on the 2000 and 2001 Youth National Teams, as well as the 2002 Junior National Team. She was also a two-time All-State selection in basketball and a three-time regional qualifier in track and field. In 2003, McCray joined her older sister Nicole in the Pine Tree High School Hall of Fame for her academic and athletic accomplishments.
The younger McCray is now once again following her big sister’s footsteps in her decision to pursue a coaching career. “Words can’t even describe how excited I am for this opportunity at Panola College,” said McCray. “It’s been amazing to watch my sister help build this program from afar, and now I just feel so blessed to be able join her on the sidelines and learn from her as I’ve done so often in my life before.”