PERKINSTON — No. 14 Mississippi Gulf Coast heads to the heat of Arizona this week for the NJCAA Division I Men's Tennis Tournament, and the focus is on Monday.
That's Day 1 of the event, which is scheduled to run through Friday in Tucson.
"We've had some really good first days, and we've had some really bad first days," Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "One year we won all nine matches, had 18 points and tied for first. Last year, we only won one match."
There will be 25 teams competing in the event at the Reffkin Tennis Center.
The Bulldogs set a simple goal when they head out to the national tournament: Finish first among MACJC teams competing. Hinds, Jones and East Central are the other schools from Mississippi that will be out there. Hinds won the MACJC/Region 23 tournament by three points over Jones and Gulf Coast, which tied for second.
The Bulldogs won three titles in Fulton last month. Evan Chubb (So., Biloxi/St. Patrick) won No. 3 singles and teamed with Patrick Roth (Fr., Pascagoula/Resurrection) for the No. 2 doubles championship.
"I think our team has grown a lot closer over the year," Chubb said. "We really cheer for each other, and that's helped us come together as a team as one."
The Bulldogs spent the last week trying to dial up their conditioning as the temperatures started to rise in Perkinston. The mercury will reach 85 degrees on Monday, then get as high as 97 by the middle of the week.
"We have to go out there and eat right," Roth said. "We've been working hard at conditioning all week. When we get there, we have to stay hydrated because of the weather."
Wesley Fontaine (Fr., Biloxi/Biloxi) won the No. 5 singles championship at state. He survived a tough first-round match, then sailed through the rest of the tournament.
"I want to win some matches," he said. "I want to get as far as I can. There's going to be a lot of tough competition, but I've played some good people and pulled out some close match. I want to win and win big."
The Bulldogs have only two sophomores on the roster, which means getting used to the setting will be important.
"There are a lot of freshmen out there in that big environment for the first time," Bourgeois said. "Hopefully, we'll be ready to play mentally. That's going to be almost as important as physically."
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