MGCCC men’s tennis powered by South Mississippi
PERKINSTON, Miss. (WLOX) - If home is where the heart is, then the pulse of the region-champion Mississippi Gulf Coast men’s tennis team is rooted in South Mississippi. Starting with head coach Sam Blackburn, who spent last fall as an assistant at Clemson, but returned in January to his old stomping grounds - where he used to play, and serve as an assistant - and helped lead the team to an undefeated record in conference play in his first five months.
“Once I really take a moment and look back at how this team has done and how the women’s team has done, I just feel so blessed and thank God every day for it,” Blackburn said. “It’s something I couldn’t have scripted any better.”
But Sam is far from the only one keeping it close to home.
Six of the 10 members of the team are from South Mississippi, and some have known each other since before their high school days.
“Wesley Fontaine, he and I have been playing since we were 12,” Gulfport native Jackson Ward said.
“We all knew each other, we all had good chemistry. We all hung out off the court,” Biloxi native Wesley Fontaine said. “We’re just as good as friends as teammates.”
Of the remaining four players, two are from outside the United States: Pedro Molero (Venezuela), and Seth Macute (Australia).
But distance is just a measurement.
“At the start, I didn’t know anyone,” Macute said. “But since everyone was from around here, I found them all really nice, they were all outgoing and really welcomed me. They’re definitely my new family here.”
“Since day one, these guys have been taking care of me,” Molero said. “They’re huge. We’re all a great family.”
This year’s region crown was the Bulldogs’ first since 2013. And as they compete at nationals in mid-May, they may take the court individually.
But they’ll be playing as one.
“Me and the other guys live 50 feet from each other, and we’re always 50 feet from each other,” Lucedale native Grant Eubanks said. “My dad always says that tennis is like playing on an island, it’s just you and the other guy. But having your teammates makes that fight so much easier.”
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