Saltillo native pegged to lead tennis team revival

Mark Gilliland

Northeast Mississippi Community College is turning to one of its own to rebuild the men’s and women’s tennis programs. Mark Gilliland has been selected as head coach of both the Lady Tigers and Tigers. His duties begin immediately with competition resuming during the upcoming school year. “Our administration is making a huge commitment to tennis,” said Northeast athletic director Kent Farris, “and we feel as though coach Gilliland is exactly the person to lead these programs forward.” Gilliland is tasked with reviving two teams that have captured multiple individual state and region championships through the years. The Lady Tigers and Tigers have qualified for the national tournament several times as well, including most recently in 2008. He is the second consecutive alumnus to return to the tennis programs as a coach. Stewart Moore served as headman for one year before both teams were temporarily suspended following the 2017 season. “I just consider this such a great honor,” Gilliland said. “I’ve got a lot of connections around the area. I know there’s a lot of talent in this part of the state. I think we can be really competitive here. “I definitely plan on being hands on. I’m not going to ask them to do anything that I wouldn’t do. I want to take notes during practice sessions and when I’m watching their matches. I want them to leave here being a better tennis player and also a better student than when they came here.” Gilliland was an integral piece behind a successful run by the Tigers from 1998-2000. The men compiled a 20-12 record during his three years as a student at Northeast, including the first two as an athlete and the last as a volunteer coach assisting Jeff Clay. The Tigers went 7-3 during Gilliland’s freshman campaign, which featured a big 8-1 victory over rival Itawamba Community College plus two consecutive 9-0 blankings of Northwest Mississippi Community College. Gilliland saw action in the No. 3 singles position and the No. 2 doubles slot with partner Aaron Foster that season. Among his wins was a 6-0, 6-0 straight sets decision versus Holmes Community College. The Alcorn Central High School graduate moved to the top spot in both doubles and singles action as a sophomore. Gilliland’s doubles teammate during his final year at Northeast was Brandon Gowen. His efforts helped the Tigers finish third in the 1999 Mississippi Association of Community Colleges Conference (MACCC) Tournament. Northeast also picked up another regular season triumph over Itawamba with a tight 5-4 margin. He wrapped up his career at Northeast by receiving the prestigious Tiger Award, which is presented annually to athletes that represent their team and the institution as a whole positively at all times. Gilliland has continued to play recreationally at events sanctioned by the United States Tennis Association (USTA). He was part of two team state titles in the men’s 4.0 rating division plus one USTA Southern Region tri-level championship. He originally came back to Northeast during the fall 2020 semester as a computer science instructor. Gilliland has experience in the workforce at locations such as FedEx in Collierville, Tenn., and Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Blue Springs. Gilliland has received an Associate’s degree from Northeast, a Bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State University and a Master’s degree from Union (Tenn.) University. He and his wife Mikki now reside in Saltillo with their children, Avery and Tyler Kade.

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