SOUTH MISSISSIPPI. (WLOX) - With the new calendar year upon us, so, too, is a changing of the seasons at the junior college level. Gulf Coast and Pearl river returned to the court this week for the first official practices since the pandemic cut last season short.
The Wildcats men’s team was a perfect 28-0 last season, the lone undefeated team in the country, before their shot at a potential national title was stripped away. The women’s team ended last season winning four of its last five games, and is hoping to earn a fourth straight year with just single-digit losses.
Up in Perkinston, the men’s team is preparing for year one of the Tim Ryan era, while the women’s squad enjoyed its best season since 2013 under the direction of head coach Hope Adams.
But after the way last year ended, everyone is just excited to be back.
“I’m excited about this group,” Adams said. “We have three sophomores leading us and we have eleven freshmen so that’s really different but I’m proud of the group that came in, they’re very excited and a fun group to coach, they’re energetic. I’m just interested to see how it’s going to turn out with us being so young.”
“We’ve been practicing hard every day,” Jaronn Wilkens, Pearl River forward and Biloxi native, said. “I think we’ve got a good shot of going undefeated, getting back to the national championship. So, everything’s looking good, everybody is on the same page and hungry.”
Also getting back to the gym is Pearl River volleyball. Only in its second season ever, coach Haley Chatham and the Wildcats are looking to get the ball rolling. Typically a fall sport, Coach Chatham says the extra time off has allowed the team’s freshman players to get a better understanding of the program and get more experience before the season kicks off.
With a young program, some returners from last season are feeling confident and ready to get the season started.
“We feel like we’ve put in the hard work and even in practices in the preseason we were really firing off and we started strong,” Harleigh LaFontaine said. “Now that we’re back, it’s only the second day into practice and we’re already seeing really good results. I think our coach and our parents and everyone are really excited for us to get to play.”