July 9, 2018 10:25:38 PM
Gray Massey has the ability to multi-task.
It's a good thing, too, because Massey wouldn't recommend taking on as much as he has in the last eight months.
In addition to selling his house and moving his family, Massey has spent a majority of that time building the foundation for the women's soccer program at the Mississippi University for Women.
"I have a wonderful wife (Lauren)," Massey said when asked how he was able to juggle all of the tasks he faced.
Hired as the program's first coach in November 2017, Gray Massey is beginning to see the fruits of his labor. Last week, The W released its schedule for the upcoming 2018 season. As the countdown begins to the arrival of student-athletes at The W (Aug. 17) and to the women's soccer team's first training session (Aug. 18), Massey will continue his work to make sure the program's debut season is a success.
"We have some real hard-nosed, blue-collar kids," Massey said. "I learned a lot coaching at East Central (Community College in Decatur), not just the soccer side but also about relationships and communication. East Central did a very good job preparing me for this role."
Massey spent five seasons as the head coach of the ECCC women's soccer team. He led the program to its first appearance in the Mississippi Association of Junior and Community Colleges / National Junior College Athletic Association Region 23 semifinals.
Prior to ECCC, Massey served as head coach for the girls and boys soccer team at Florence High School, where his teams won three consecutive state titles in his eight-year tenure.
Massey expects to have more than 20 players when the team begins play. He said he gave all of the future Owls a summer workout program to help ensure they're prepared to play next month. That initial roster will feature nearly 10 players who have earned All-State or All-Region honors and nearly 20 who have played club soccer for five or more years.
The 2018 team also will have a distinct local flavor. Former Caledonia High players Briann Benson (Meridian C.C.), AC Parish, and Zoe Saraiva (Northwest Mississippi C.C.), Haley Marie Fisackerly (Heritage Academy), Anna Kate O'Bryant and Samantha Vogel (New Hope High), and Cailee Helen McClain (Starkville High, East Central) have ties to the Golden Triangle. Vogel also played at Jones County Junior College and at Meridian C.C.
Massey said he would like to enhance The W's relationship with the Columbus Soccer Organization and with Columbus United, its competitive branch, to help grow the sport of soccer in the area.
Massey actually started that work in December, when he said he went to eight of the state's junior colleges to tell the players about the academic programs offered at The W and his vision for the Owls. He feels his contacts in the MACJC helped him connect with players and increase the visibility for the second year of intercollegiate sports at the school in Columbus.
Massey said he didn't have any preconceived notions about how many local players he could have in the program. Still, he said he was pleased so many players bought into his plans for the program.
"We could be very good very quick," Massey said, pointing to the fact that nearly 20 of the 24 players on the roster already have college experience.
Senior Gabby Gross, who played for Massey at ECCC before moving on to Mississippi College in Clinton, is one of those players. She and O'Bryant earned the honor of being selected last week to represent the team on the website for the announcement of the schedule.
The W will kick off the season with a scrimmage against Division I Alcorn State at 1 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 26, in Lorman. The W will play host to Division II West Alabama at 5 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 30, at the downtown Columbus Soccer Complex.
The W will play Division II Delta State at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, in Cleveland in its season opener. At 1 p.m. Monday, Sept. 3, The W will play host to East Texas Baptist in its regular-season home opener.
The W also will play host to Letourneau, Millsaps, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Judson, Hendrix, and LaGrange. It will play road matches against Huntingdon, Mississippi Valley State, Berry, Birmingham Southern, Sewanee, Belhaven, Centenary, Oakwood, Hiwassee, and Judson.
Massey, who will work with graduate assistant Sarah Daniels, joked The W likely will face many of its toughest tests early on. He said he has had a habit of scheduling like that at his previous stops, but he feels tough matches at the beginning of the season will prepare the players for a strong finish. He said his goal is to have the women's soccer team follow in the footsteps of The W's baseball and softball teams, which qualified for the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) Small College World Series in their first year of existence.
The W is a member of the USCAA while it completes the process to become a Division III member of the NCAA.
If the past eight months have "flown by," in Massey's words, there is no telling how quickly the next month will go as the countdown accelerates for the women's soccer team's first practice.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.