PERKINSTON — Mississippi Gulf Coast won its first MACJC women's tennis title since 1987 last year and bring half its lineup back for 2018.
The Lady Bulldogs aim to defend their title and make another trip to the NJCAA Division I National Championship.
"We're very optimistic about the season," Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "We had a great showing at the ITA Regionals in Meridian. We've got good leadership at the top of the lineup with Bianca Buie and Margarita Lopareva."
Buie (So, Baia Mare, Romania/Gheorghe Sincai National High School) makes the step up to No. 1 singles after winning the No. 2 singles title last year.
"Bianca has gotten faster, gotten quicker," Bourgeois said. "Her determination has really improved and she's not as nervous before matches as she was last year. I've seen a real hunger. She's being recruited by a lot of schools, and she wants her choice of schools."
Buie teamed with Lopareva (Fr, Moscow, Russia/School No. 1101) to win the doubles championship at the ITA Regionals and competed at the Oracle Cup in the fall.
The duo is setting the tempo for the squad with their practice battles, which Bourgeois said lifts the team.
"Margarita brings consistency and willingness to fight," he said. "She hates to give up one point. She's a fighter and doesn't like to lose even practice. She will battle to the last point. You have to really beat her. She's not going to beat herself."
Megan Bankston (Fr, Gulfport/Gulfport) is penciled in to fill the No. 3 singles spot, and Jenna Lyons (So, Pascagoula/Pascagoula) is at No. 4. Lyons was one half of the No. 2 doubles state champion team last season, so she brings that experience back to the pairing.
Tierney Holmes (Fr, Greenwood/Greenwood) is at No. 5 singles, and Jillianne Craft (So, Gulfport/St. Patrick) returns at No. 6, where she advanced to the state finals last year.
"If we can stay injury we've got a really good chance this year," said Bourgeois.
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCAthletics on Twitter and BulldogLIVE on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College