Mississippi Gulf Coast women's tennis players Paulina Estrada and Katie Robinson head to Sumter, S.C., this week for the National Small College Championships.
It's the third straight year the school has qualified, with Estrada having won the ITA Regional Championships singles title in Meridian last month. She teamed with Robinson to win the doubles title.
"It's establishing our women's team as a nationally recognized program, which is a monster when you start thinking about recruiting," Gulf Coast coach Gary Bourgeois said. "Especially the international players, because they look at where our team has gone."
They'll open play Thursday, with Estrada facing Seminole State's Luisa Varon at 10:30 a.m.
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Bourgeois said she knows some of the other seven players in the tournament from Mexico, so he thinks that will help her be comfortable on the bigger stage.
"She told me she's playing better than she's every played right now. Her expectations are high," Bourgeois said. "I think she should play on this platform really well. I think her experience as a tournament player will show. Now, it's showtime. You have to put up."
Estrada's doubles match with Robinson is against Miranda Rodriguez and Varon at 3 p.m. Bourgeois likes to pair a shot-maker with a finesse player, and Robinson handles the finesse side of the equation.
He's seen them develop good chemistry, support and communications. They dropped the first set of the regional finals, but stormed back to claim the title.
"This gives them another venue to get more experience together in big matches," Bourgeois said. "When we host the state and region, this will be another experience behind them."