With Ole Miss' first three Southeastern Conference Tournament appearances in the 12-year history of the program, sixth-year head coach Missy Dickerson has her eyes on a bigger goal - the NCAA Tournament.
With a group of veteran players and talented newcomers under the direction of the former UCLA star, who is 238-210 in eight seasons as head coach at Ole Miss and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, the Rebels are poised to accomplish their goal.
Last year, Dickerson led the Rebels to the second winning season in school history. Ole Miss fell just short of receiving the school's first NCAA Tournament berth with a 29-27, but did record a win over No. 4 Florida and a series win over in-state foe Mississippi State. The Rebel offense also set single-season record for batting average (.291), runs (250), hits (421) and RBI (218). In the field, senior Lauren Grill earned second team All-SEC and third team All-America honors after leading the team with a school-record .443 batting average. Under Dickerson's tutelage, Grill finished her Ole Miss career as the school leader in hits, runs, RBI, walks, total bases, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage and became the only two-time All-American in Rebel history.
In 2009, Dickerson guided the Rebels to the school's first ever series win over a top-10 team, when Ole Miss took two-of-three from No. 9 Louisiana-Lafayette to open the season and helped the Rebels earn their first ever votes in a top 25 poll. The Rebels also took the series from No. 12 Tennessee and knocked off No. 17 LSU at home. The Rebels also brought home the hardware, as Dickerson coached Grill to her second straight All-SEC selection, and Corrine Doornberg was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
The 2008 season was Dickerson directed an Ole Miss squad that won eight of its final 10 conference games and finished just two games under .500, all while playing the 10th-toughest schedule in the nation. Over the final three weeks of the season, the Rebels posted series wins at No. 12 LSU and at Arkansas, a series sweep of South Carolina and a series split at No. 9 Tennessee. The Rebels also earned an out -of-conference victory over No. 25 Mississippi State in the M&F Fastpitch Classic. Under Dickerson's tutelage in 2008, Grill became the first player in Ole Miss history to earn first team All-America honors, as the sophomore set school records in batting (.393), slugging percentage (.727) and walks (30). Grill also picked up first team all-region and second team All-SEC honors
Ole Miss started as many as seven freshmen in 2007 from a recruiting class that featured two high school All-Americans. The squad started slowly as a result of facing a very difficult schedule. They posted a 4-12 record to begin the season with tight games against Top-25 squads such as No. 2 Arizona State, No. 11 Michigan, No. 13 Louisiana-Lafayette, No. 15 Washington and No. 16 Baylor.
The league schedule was highlighted by a home victory over No. 1-ranked Tennessee on March 14. It was the Rebels' first victory over a top-ranked squad and was one of four wins over ranked opponents in 2007. Ole Miss also knocked off No. 9 LSU and recorded the program's fourth-ever series victory over a ranked opponent when the Rebels took a pair of games from No. 19 Florida.
The 11 SEC victories eclipsed the previous school record of 10 conference wins in a season, set in Dickerson's first year in Oxford. The Rebels also tied the school record with three SEC series victories over Arkansas, Auburn and Florida.
Ashley Dowdy and Grill earned SEC All-Freshman honors under Dickerson in 2007, giving her three SEC freshmen honorees her first two seasons in Oxford. Grill led the team in batting (.325), hits (55), home runs (14), RBI (31), runs (34) and walks (25). Her 14 homers were the second-most in a season in Ole Miss history and ranked her second in the SEC. In addition, senior Mary Jane Callahan became only the second player in school history to earn Louisville Slugger All-Region honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches' Association.
Dickerson arrived in Oxford after leading Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to a 42-11 record and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005. She took over the helm of the Texas A&M-C.C. program in 2002 and led the Islanders to three straight NCAA Tournament berths and three straight Big South Conference Tournament Championships (2003-2005).
During her tenure in Corpus Christi, Dickerson led the Islanders to a tremendous turnaround as she took them to a 112-56 record in her three seasons. Prior to her arrival, the Islanders had an overall record of 74-106-1.
As the head coach of the Islanders, Dickerson coached eight first team All-Big South selections, a Freshman of the Year pick and a three-time Pitcher of the Year honoree. Dickerson also developed two All-Region selections and a third team All-America selection in 2005.
Prior to her arrival in Corpus Christi, Dickerson served as an assistant coach with San Jose State for the 2001 and 2002 seasons, working with the Spartans' infield defense and overall offense.
Following her stellar collegiate career at UCLA, the Southern California native spent one season as an assistant at Oklahoma and Indiana State.
As a player, Dickerson was a part of history at UCLA, helping lead the Bruins to three straight national championships from 1988-90. No other team has claimed back-to-back-to-back national titles in softball. The Bruins finished as national runners-up in 1991, Dickerson's senior season.
"Being part of a national championship program allows you the opportunity to take away a sense of what a program needs to do to reach that caliber of softball," Dickerson said. "Being a part of a team that has accomplished its goals at the highest level helps build confidence and gives a strong sense of what it takes to get there again."
Dickerson was a key component of the Bruin run during her career as she earned All-Pac-10 honors three times and was named an All-America selection as a senior. She also was named to the All-Women's College World Series Team in 1988 and 1989.
Dickerson still holds several spots in the UCLA record book, most of them coming during her senior campaign. The infielder is in the top 20 all-time at UCLA in games played (221), at bats (611), doubles (29) and triples (12).
A 1992 graduate of UCLA with a bachelor's degree in political science, Dickerson lives in Water Valley with her husband, Tom, their six-year old son, Trevor and one-year old son, Hunter.