Amber McCray promoted to Head Volleyball Coach
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Amber McCray has been named the New Head Volleyball Coach of the national power Panola College Fillies program. Coach McCray spent the past two years as an assistant under former Fillies Volleyball Head Coach Nicole Thorn, where she 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.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed my two years already spent at Panola, and now I feel incredibly blessed to have been given this opportunity to now lead such a fine program backed by an extremely supportive administration in such a tight-knit community. I’ve always been very proud of Nicole for all she has accomplished here and building on the winning tradition Panola Volleyball first established in the 90’s, and now I’m honored to be able to add another chapter to that legacy,” notes Coach Amber McCray.
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 2ndTeam 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.
“We are excited about having Amber as our new Coach. She is a great fit for stepping in right behind her sister, who did a magnificent job as our head coach and reestablishing Panola as a national power for the last five years, stated Don Clinton, Vice President of Student Services/Athletic Director.