Feb. 28, 2014
By Austin Miller, OleMissSports.com
OXFORD, Miss. — It is not the senior campaign they envisioned, but nevertheless, they have made their mark as the first senior class under first-year head coach Matt Insell. Ole Miss will honor seniors Valencia McFarland, Kenyotta Jenkins and Diara Moore before the regular-season finale vs. Auburn on Sunday.
“This group of seniors will always have a special place for me,” said head coach Matt Insell. “They are the foundation for what we will do and how we do it, moving forward. When we win the SEC Championship, Valencia McFarland, Kenyotta Jenkins and Diara Moore will all get a ring because without them and their commitment to remodeling this program, we don’t get to where we are trying to go. They have laid the groundwork for many future successes.”
McFarland and Jenkins, both Mississippi natives, from Potts Camp and Edwards, respectively, entered the Ole Miss program together as freshmen before the 2010-11 season. They have played for three different head coach in Renee Ladner, Brett Frank and Matt Insell.
“We’re the only two seniors who have been together for four years,” McFarland said. “It’s been great having her around and going through everything, and now we’re going out together.”
“It’s been a good experience,” Jenkins said. “I call Valencia my best friend. We have been through everything. We push each and motivate each other. It’s been a good experience, even though we have had some ups and downs.”
Moore joined McFarland and Jenkins before their junior seasons in 2012-13. Coming into the program by herself as a transfer from Independence (Kan.) Community College, her fellow seniors helped her adjust and know she was not there on her own.
“The Ole Miss pride has always been very special to me,” Moore said. “The people here have been so welcoming to me. Even though I came here last year and I have only been here for two years, I felt like I have been here all four years. This place is always going to have a special place in my heart, and I’m always going to be a Rebel.”
Throughout the season, Insell has talked about the process and continuing to fight, despite the results, to restore the once-proud program, and his first senior class has helped lead that effort, as they prepare for their last collegiate games in the Tad Smith Coliseum.
“I knew we had a new coach coming in and we only had one year with him, so we came out to set some standards for the years to come and the players to come,” McFarland said. “The season hasn’t been what we wanted it to be or what we expected it to be, but we want to finish strong.”
“A lot of people, this year, have told us that they love that we fight,” Moore said. “They love that we don’t quit. If you do that, good things will eventually happen. We don’t know when it will happen, but you have to keep believing and don’t give up.”
Austin Miller is a writer and blogger for OleMissSports.com. He joined the staff in June 2013 after serving as sports editor of the Daily Mississippian. Follow him on Twitter @austinkmiller