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Former University of Florida All-American Amber McCray is entering her second year as Fillies Volleyball Head Coach after spending her first two years at Panola as an assistant under former Head Coach Nicole Thorn. In her first season at the helm, McCray led the Fillies to a 22-10 overall record and spent most of the season ranked in the Top 20, rising as high as #3 in the nation. The 2013 season also produced four 1st and 2nd Team All-Conference selections for Panola, as well as two honorable mention all-conference players. As an assistant, McCray helped lead the Fillies to back-to-back conference runner-up finishes and national rankings each season. She was also part of a coaching staff that produced the first Panola player to ever receive AVCA All-American recognition and two time NJCAA All-American, Josie Santos (2011), as well as Panola’s third all-time NJCAA All-American, Nausheen Merchant (2012). McCray first came to Panola in 2011 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.
As a student-athlete at the University of Florida, McCray was a dominant opposite hitter for the Gators volleyball team from 2003-2007 and a two-year captain. She was also a member of five straight Southeastern Conference Championship teams, including a medical red-shirt year as a sophomore and a National Runner-Up team in 2003. 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-Southeastern Conference honors in 2006 and 2007, AVCA All-South Region honors in 2006, and nominations to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament Team in 2005 and 2007. Her .351 career hitting efficiency is currently the 2nd 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 six players, and three 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 single season 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 the entire UF athletic program at the NCAA Leadership Convention in 2006, and her efforts in the Gainesville community earned her a spot on the SEC Community Service Team in 2007. As a senior, McCray also received the Tracy Caulkins Award, presented to UF’s top graduating female student-athlete who possesses the traits of academic achievement, athletic achievement, 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 high school 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 was nominated to the Pine Tree High School Hall of Fame for her academic and athletic accomplishments.
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Jane Hays is entering her second season as assistant coach for the Fillies. Hays came to Panola in the summer of 2013 following two successful seasons as an assistant at East Texas Baptist University, where she aided former Panola volleyball standout and current ETBU Head Coach Lyndsay Simpson Mashe in bringing in the program’s top recruiting class in 2012 and again in 2013 by adding players from some of the premiere club programs in Texas.
In her two seasons with ETBU, Hays primarily worked with the team’s outside hitters and defense; coaching five all-conference selections during that time. She has continued this role in her first season at Panola, leading Fillies freshmen Justine Luis and Kennedi Coleman both to 2nd Team All-Conference honors in 2013.
Hays was also a student-athlete for ETBU from 2006-2009, and a four-time All-American Southwest Conference East Division selection. The Tigers won or shared two ASC East Division titles during her career and advanced to the postseason every year during that span with Hays serving as a valuable team leader both on and off the court. Hays’ awards were not limited to just her athletic ability; she was a three time All-ASC Academic selection, Distinguished Scholar Athlete selection, and a nominee for the prestigious 2010 NCAA Woman of the Year award.
Serving as a three year captain, Hays is the only player in ETBU volleyball history to rank in the top 10 all-time in kills, digs and aces. She ranks fourth all-time in career kills and digs with 1,432 kills and 1,227 digs, and third all-time in aces with 141.
Hays was also a member of the ETBU softball team from 2006-2008, but decided to focus solely on volleyball when injuries sidelined her in the 2008 season.
The Hereford, Texas native was a three-sport star in high school, competing in volleyball, basketball and softball. An all-state selection in both volleyball and softball, Hays ranks among the top all-time athletes to come from Hereford High School.
Hays has coached several club teams including Young Guns Volleyball Club which was nationally ranked during her time with the team, and now most recently for East Texas Juniors.
Hays graduated Cum Laude from ETBU in 2010 with a B.S.E. in Secondary Education with an emphasis in History.