PERKINSTON — The Mississippi Gulf Coast men's tennis team was on a roll when its 2020 season ended abruptly last month. The Bulldogs had won four straight after beating Itawamba in its last match.
The Intercollegiate Tennis Association hasn't released the final rankings for the season, the Bulldogs were No. 19 when the season shut down. They had only one defeat in their 10 matches.
"I thought we were the dominant team," longtime Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "Nobody could match us (Nos.) 2 through 6. We had a physical situation with a player cramping or else we'd be undefeated. I think we had the talent to win it."
He thought the loss to Jones refocused his team, and importantly made each player feel their individual contribution to the effort was all the more important.
Gulf Coast was slated to host the MACJC/Region 23 Tournament in Perkinston in mid-April, giving them some home-cooking to look forward to.
Seth Macute (Fr., St Joseph's Nudgee College/Brisbane, Australia) had rebounded to beat one of the two opponents who'd beaten him in singles.
"Seth really came on strong," Bourgeois said. "He avenged the loss he had against ICC, which showed me he was at the top of his game."
Gulf Coast also reconfigured their doubles lineup about halfway through the season, and it really sparked things into life. Patrick Roth (So., Resurrection/Pascagoula) and Reid Crow (So., Wesson/Wesson) had been paired at No. 2 and were 4-1 together. Raymond Lam (Fr., Biloxi/Biloxi) and Clint Verrett (So., Gulfport/Gulfport) were undefeated at No. 3.
"I felt our doubles were going to skyrocket us to the leaderboard in the state tournament," Bourgeois said. "I thought we would really dominate doubles, which was going to be key for us."
Macute and Wesley Fontaine (So., Biloxi/Biloxi) were 8-2 at No. 1 singles, and Fontaine was perfect at No. 3 singles. The tallest on the squad, he's a big hitter who is an all-court player. He'd progressed mentally from his freshman season, when he won a state doubles championship, using his whole toolbox to figure out ways to beat opponents.
"He had a problem sometime closing matches out," Bourgeois said. "He'd have a lull in the middle of a match, especially if he got up early. We talked about that, and he understood the match really starts in the second set. He really came through in some big tiebreakers and closed out some matches in straight sets."
The NJCAA has announced that spring sports competitors will have another year of eligibility. While the MACJC hasn't set its policy for scholarship and roster limits, Roth, Fontaine and Reid are thinking of returning for another year.
Gulf Coast will lose Verrett and Lam, who are headed to four-year schools to pursue their academic careers. Bourgeois has five high school seniors signed to join the team, and potential third-year sophomores will be important parts of the 2021 team.
"I think we'll be really strong again next year," Bourgeois said. "Their leadership will be pivotal helping those young freshmen coming in, tell them what Gulf Coast tennis is all about, the work ethic needed to stay at the top. I think that's really going to help us."
For more information on MGCCC's 10 intercollegiate athletic teams, follow @MGCCCBulldogs on Twitter and MGCCCBulldogs on Facebook, and go to mgcccbulldogs.com.
Sports Information Director
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College