PERKINSTON — Margarita Lopareva earned her way into the NJCAA Division I Women's Tennis Championship by winning her second state/region championship.
The Lady Bulldogs didn't qualify as a team, but that doesn't mean Lopareva is looking at the event, which starts Sunday in Tyler, Texas, with any less intensity.
"My goal is to represent the school with honor," the sophomore from Moscow, Russia, said. "I want to do my best, work hard and fight for every point."
Mississippi Gulf Coast will take two players to the tournament, with Megan Bankston (So., Gulfport/Gulfport), Lopareva's doubles partner, joining her to play No. 1 doubles as well as No. 2 singles.
Lopareva went 13-2 in singles this season and won the MACJC/NJCAA Region 23 championships without dropping more than three games in any set at Fulton. She won the No. 2 singles title as a freshman.
"I think the leadership of Bianca (Buie) last year helped her," Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "It introduced her to a different style of play with different reactions to adverse situations. The coaching in Russia is very different than it is here. This was one of the things she had to adjust to, coaching on the court. Once she did that, her whole game transformed. She started accepting coaching and she saw the success of it."
Lopareva had the biggest national tournament win in Gulf Coast history last year, becoming the first Bulldog to beat a national seed when she outlasted Harford's Kyning Tillinghast 1-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the round of 16.
"We'd love to see that again this year," Bourgeois said. "Margarita's tenacity is a threat to any players."
Cruising to the state championship was a big deal for Lopareva. It's another feather in the cap her ahead of signing to play Division II tennis at Chowan in North Carolina.
"It was my goal," she said. I was glad I achieved them, thanks to Coach and to the school. They gave me all the conditions to do this. The courts, everything. I've never had to ask for anything. I had everything to succeed."
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