Pearl River Community College didn’t have to leave the South Mississippi volleyball community to find the coach to lead the school’s program in its infancy.
PRCC announced Tuesday that it has hired Vancleave High School head coach Haley Chatham to take over the school’s women’s program — the first junior college volleyball squad ever in Mississippi.
Chatham led Vancleave to consecutive Class II state championships the last two seasons, clinching the most recent title on Saturday with a sweep of Lake Cormorant in Oxford.
The Vancleave program was 126-40 in five seasons under the direction of Chatham.
“I have been talking about (the need for JUCO volleyball), thinking about it and really wanting it and then Pearl River really stepped up to the plate and said ‘we want to be the first,’” Chatham said in a press release. “There’s something really special about being the first and being pioneers of volleyball in Mississippi and I realized I wanted to be the one who’s first and lay that foundation, like my coaches did for me, for the rest of the girls in the state.”
The Pearl River program will begin competing during the 2019-20 school year. PRCC will play against programs from neighboring states until more Mississippi junior colleges add their own volleyball teams.
South Mississippi high school programs like Our Lady Academy, Hancock, Long Beach, St. Martin and Bay High have all claimed state titles since the MHSAA first offered volleyball in the mid 1990’s.
Chatham’s PRCC program will look to capitalize on that success to build a competitive junior college squad.
“A lot of our girls don’t currently get to go on and play after high school, Chatham said. “The popularity of volleyball in the rest of the country hasn’t really been there in Mississippi but the last five years it has really taken off. More and more high schools are adding volleyball and clubs are popping up everywhere. Now kids are getting into it younger at 5 and 6 years old, so we’re on a track to really grow the sport.”
Chatham, who first got into coaching as an assistant at St. Martin, was named the 2017-18 Coach of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Coaches.
Chatham is a graduate of Vancleave and Southern Miss.