PERKINSTON — The Mississippi Gulf Coast men's tennis team will start 2019 ranked 18th in the country, and coach Gary Bourgeois is "cautiously optimistic" at their chance to bring home some hardware at the end of the season.
"We've had some really big successes the last two or three years, going undefeated in conference last year, and then we get to the state tournament and have calamities," he said. "We're doing some things differently mentally and physically to prepare for when we get there."
The Bulldogs start play Thursday at Copiah-Lincoln before their first home match Friday against Holmes. First serve at the MGCCC Tennis Complex will be at 1 p.m.
Gulf Coast returns just two sophomores, but Bourgeois thinks the freshman class has enough talent to do good things.
"They're developing what it takes to compete in the big matches," he said. "They're working hard, so now it's just getting acclimated to a faster ball, a faster game."
Austin Vos (So., Perth Australia/Applecross), who was part of a No. 1 doubles team that won a match at the national tournament last year, returns and will play No. 1 singles as well. Fellow international player Nicolas Bettignie (Fr., Brussels Belgium/Mater Dei Instituut) will play No. 2 singles. He's come on strong after getting used to being in America.
Patrick Roth (Fr., Pascagoula/Resurrection) will play at No. 3 singles, and Evan Chubb (So., Biloxi/St. Patrick) returns to play at No. 4. Chubb made it to the finals of the consolation draw at the NJCAAs last spring. They'll also team up at No. 2 doubles.
Wesley Fontaine (Fr., Biloxi/Biloxi) is a court rat who will play No. 5 singles, with Anthony Schloegel (Fr., Gulfport/St. Patrick) at No. 6. Fontaine will pair with Clint Verrett (Fr., Gulfport/Gulfport) at No. 3 doubles.
Big-serving Cole Wagner (Fr., Ocean Springs/Ocean Springs) will partner with Vos at No. 1 doubles, and Elliott Nolan (Fr., Diamondhead/Hancock), Reid Crow (Fr., Wesson/Wesson) and Phillip Williams (Fr., Moss Point/Moss Point) providing stiff competition and aiming to make it into the lineup.
"If we can develop the discipline and patience that's needed in the big matches that are coming up, I think we can do well," Bourgeois said. "Most of the teams are tough, but we had a good fall season."
The MACJC/Region 23 Tournament will be played in Tupelo this year, hosted by Itawamba. ICC, Jones and Meridian will be the teams for Gulf Coast to beat up there.
"There's a lot of competition around the state," Bourgeois said. "There's a lot of parity. I think the teams that go through the season with no injuries and that have solid play at 4, 5 and 6, that's going to be the team to win the championship."
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