No. 14 Mississippi Gulf Coast avenged its only loss to an MACCC team in the best possible way Saturday. The Bulldogs beat No. 12 Jones 5-2 on its homecourt for the NJCAA Region 23 Men’s Tennis championship.
“Man, it’s an unbelievable feeling to have this group of guys come together and play as a team like they did,” Gulf Coast coach Sam Blackburn said. “They really deserved it. They wanted it so much. They played like a team is supposed to play. They fought for each other, and they deserved it. No doubt about it. I’m over the moon excited and happy about it.”
Gulf Coast (14-5) has won the region title twice in the last three seasons. It’s the eighth in school history. Gulf Coast will head to the NJCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Tournament on May 15-19 in McKinney, Texas.
Jones (19-5) won the first meeting between the teams 6-3 on Feb. 28 at Perk. Gulf Coast won this time around by reversing results on four courts.
Anderson Dulaney (So., Long Beach/Long Beach) and Triston Hill won 8-4 at No. 3 doubles, a key win which got Bulldogs headed to singles down just 2-1.
“It meant everything,” said Blackburn, who won Region 23 Coach of the Year. “Going down 1-2 is very manageable, but 0-3 is very nearly impossible. For 3 doubles to step up was the difference between a win and a loss. I’m very proud of those guys.”
Triston Hill (Fr., Perkinston/Stone) breezed to a victory at No. 6 singles, winning 6-1, 6-2.
“He didn’t even play the last time we played them, and he took this opportunity to play today and ran with it,” Blackburn said. “He cruised. He was the first singles match done. I asked him afterward if it was his best match of the year, and he said yes. He saved the best for last, and there’s no better way to do it.”
Owen Stice repeated his win at No. 2 singles, picking up a 6-2, 6-4 result.
Dulaney, who came back this year for a third season at Gulf Coast, needed a third-set tiebreaker to win 7-5, 0-6, 10-6 to clinch the title.
“It felt good, especially because we lost last year,” Dulaney said. “Me being a third year, it felt really nice.”
Team: Gulf Coast 5, Jones 2
No. 1: Wallace Brewer-Tomas Nader (JC) def. Paul Gayk-Owen Stice, 8-1
No. 2: Charlie Brady-Tanner Bevard (JC) def. Kyle Bond-Orren Ladner, 8-4
No. 3: Anderson Dulaney-Triston Hill (GC) def. Dawson Do-Jackson Peoples, 8-4
No. 1: Gayk (GC) def. Nader, 6-2, 6-4
No. 2: Stice (GC) def. Brewer, 6-2, 6-4
No. 3: Dulaney (GC) def. Brady, 7-5, 0-6, 10-6
No. 4: Peoples (JC) vs. Bond, 6-3, 5-4 inc.
No. 5: Bevard (JC) vs. Ladner, 6-3, 3-1 inc.
No. 6: Hill (GC) def. Do, 6-1, 6-3
NJCAA Region 23 Men’s Tennis Championship
Thursday, April 20
No. 1 Jones 5, No. 8 Copiah-Lincoln 0
No. 3 Meridian 5, No. 6 Hinds 4
No. 2 Gulf Coast 5, No. 7 East Central 0
No. 4 Itawamba 5, No. 5 Northwest Mississippi 1
Friday, April 21
Jones 5, Itawamba 0
Gulf Coast 5, Meridian 0 (Tatum Park, Hattiesburg)
Saturday, April 22
Championship: Gulf Coast 5, Jones 2
Third-place: Meridian 5, Itawamba 3