By Ron Cioffi
With their team t-shirts emblazoned with “Tennis Players Gone Wild,” you’d think this team was a wild bunch of party-crazy people. But the name is about reaching the 2009 USTA Mixed Doubles National Championships without being the top team.
“We really haven’t won anything,” said coach Celia Coffey.
The 2.5 team which hails from the Parham Bridges Tennis Center in Jackson, Miss., slipped into the big-time Nationals tournament by finishing second in the State and Section tournaments and riding two wild cards into the next competition.
Asked if they felt like underachievers, Coffey said, “No, we’re pretty proud of it.”
The road to Tucson has been filled with fun and achievement but temporary disappointments.
At the Mississippi tournament in Oxford, the team lost its first match but regained its stride to finish with only one loss. The eventual first-place team had the same number of losses in matches, individual matches and sets but only lost 70 games to Coffey’s team’s 85. But, Mississippi had a wild card into the Section’s tournament, so the team, which is also captained by Celia’s husband Ron, was headed to the next level.
They didn’t have to go far because the Southern Section’s tournament was being held in the team’s home facility. There, the team won its round-robin and advanced to face Louisiana in the Sunday final.
One team member, Brian Fugler, is a life-long fan of the New Orleans Saints and also the Archie Manning family of pro quarterbacks. Even though he had tickets to the big match-up between the Saints and the Eli Manning-led New York Giants, he stayed the course and played his match in the final.
“That really showed his dedication to our team,” Mrs. Coffey, a 4.5 player, said. “He wanted to be a part of our effort more than going to the game.”
Louisiana prevailed to win the Section title. However, another loss was not going to hamper the Jackson team. While competing, they learned that Southern had the wild card into the National competition, meaning Coffey, Coffey and crew were headed west to Tucson.
The disappointment of losing to Louisiana didn’t deter the Jackson team but inspired them to make the charcoal gray t-shirts that they’re wearing as they battle for the National title.