PERKINSTON — No. 13 Mississippi Gulf Coast heads into the MACJC/Region 23 Tournament, which starts Thursday in Meridian, undefeated in the conference.
That doesn't automatically make the men's tennis team the favorite to win.
"A lot of our matches have been really close," Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "There have been a lot of tiebreakers, so I think there's a lot of parity in the league, especially the top three teams: us, Meridian and Co-Lin. Hinds is a dangerous team, also."
The nature of the game changes in the postseason. The dual matches are team vs. team. There are three doubles and six singles brackets in this tournament, eight schools fighting it out in each.
There's pressure to win individual state and region championships on top of the team goals. The outcome is determined by who advances farthest in the most brackets, and upsets can tip the scale against a team.
"It's going to be the type of tournament that comes down to the semifinals," Bourgeois said. "With only eight teams in the draw, the semis will decide things, probably."
The Bulldogs, winners of all 10 conference matches, are in as good health as they've been all season. Travis Bell (So, Jackson/Calloway) has rounded into form after some injuries, and Austin Vos (Fr, Perth, Australia/Applecross) played some at No. 1 singles in his place and has been strong on his return to No. 2.
John Murphy (So, Mobile, Ala./McGill-Toolen) is undefeated at No. 3, and Evan Chubb (Fr, Biloxi/St. Patrick) has come into his own in the next spot. Reid Cudd (So, Wiggins/Stone) is the defending state champion at No. 5, and Austin Moore has won his last four matches in the final spot.
"Each line has its own individual championship, so you have seeds getting knocked off," Bourgeois said. "A lot of teams play a lot of out-of-conference matches that are really tough, so it's hard to tell what you're going to see. It's all about who's playing well at the end of the season. Normally the teams who get hot at the end do well."
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