After reaching the MACJC State Tournament semi-finals and advancing to Region 23 Tournament competition in 2013, East Central Community College's fast-pitch softball team is preparing for even greater success in 2014, according to second-year head coach Kristin Chaney.

The first "test" of the new season begins Thursday when the Lady Warriors battle rival East Mississippi Community College in doubleheader action beginning at 3 p.m. on the Decatur campus.

Chaney, whose first Lady Diamond Warrior squad finished at 31-17, said she learned "a lot" during her initial season leading the longtime successful softball program following four years as assistant to Scott Hill.

She hopes to parlay that experience into a championship campaign.

"I learned that all players are different....and tried to find out more about each one as a person, and not just as a player," said Chaney, who garnered NJCAA All-American honors as a Lady Diamond Warrior. "I also learned that players appreciate being cared about not only as an athlete but as a person in general."

Chaney said she was pleased with the 2013 squad and its success."

In describing the 2014 Lady Diamond Warriors, Chaney said a "winning attitude" and "competitive spirit" are most applicable.

"I like the fact that this team believes they can beat anybody," she said.

The top returnee from last year is first baseman Ty Buckley of Philadelphia, who received All-Region 23 and MACJC All-State honors and was recognized as an NJCAA All-American nominee.

She also received the Lady Diamond Warriors' most valuable player award.

The Neshoba Central High School product led the Lady Diamond Warriors with a .397 batting average. She belted six home runs, seven triples, 12 doubles and was credited with 36 RBIs.

Other returnees and their respective high schools include infielder/pitcher Amber McBroom, Brandon; infielders Lindsey Beard of Clarkdale and Haley Stephens of Union; outfielder Morgan Porter of Enterprise; and utility player Kaylin Hopkins of Louisville.

Freshmen and their respective high schools include infielder/pitcher Megan Robinson, Nanih Waiya; Skyler Simmons, a product of Bob Jones High School in Madison, Ala.; utility players Mallory Tuner of West Lauderdale, Nikki Triplett of Forest, Anna Katherine Nowell of Leake Academy, Christen Benson of Brookhaven and Karoline Holsonback of South Lamar HS, Kennedy, Ala.; and pitcher/infielder Makayla Kelly, Nederland (Texas) High School.