Bearcats tennis team captures regional championship
By Andy Kanengiser
Coach Andrea Breland couldn’t be prouder of the Long Beach High tennis team.
After all, the Bearcats stepped up their game this spring to capture the MHSAA District 5A Region 8 championship.
With effective lobs, stellar net play and potent serves, Long Beach student-athletes shined on tennis courts all season. LBHS finished the 2021 season with an overall record of 9-2.
The Bearcats “worked extremely hard to get to where they are, and their success is my number one priority,’’ Breland said. “We have an incredibly strong bonded team and a huge support system off the courts. I think that makes a world of difference in their success and in their performance.’’
The Long Beach team went undefeated in the district. The team competed in the individual district tennis tournament in Pascagoula on March 31, with six of seven teams (a total of ten out of twelve varsity players) earning spots in the state tournament.
Breland says her players are seeing that their hard work is paying off.
“It has motivated them to keep working hard and set the goal of state champs.’’
Coach Breland works hard herself. She’s committed to coaching and excelling in the education profession. The honors biology instructor also teaches earth and space science.
Her standout tennis players, including team captain Reagan Picchi, say they are thrilled with how the 2021 season wrapped up.
“This season has been one of the best seasons I’ve ever had out of the past five years of playing,” said Picchi.
“The girls and boys on this team are not only terrific players, but they are terrific people, too,’’ says Picchi, a Bearcats senior. “I could not imagine a better senior year watching everyone improve on and off the court.’’
The Bearcats captain gives Andrea Breland much of the credit for the team’s awesome play all year. “This could not be possible without a great leader like Coach Breland.’’
Shutting down sports teams nationwide in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly halted Long Beach tennis competition in mid-season. But with millions of COVID vaccines getting in the arms of Americans daily, and health protocols staying in place, schools fielded sports teams and resumed other activities again.
Bearcats tennis “came back stronger than ever as a team,’’ said Long Beach senior Alexa Nanatovich, as she pointed to the squad’s season record and winning performances in district matches. “We’ve been successful, because not only are we focused on getting better each practice, but we have a strong support system and team bond.’’
Maroon and White tennis teams compete in various categories. Girls and boys battle for points in singles matches. There are two girls doubles teams and two boys doubles teams, and the Bearcats play on a mixed doubles team.
Competing at the Harper McCaughan courts on March 8, Long Beach opened district play with a 6-1 triumph over the East Central Hornets. Singles winners that day included players Alexa Nanatovich, sophomore Caleb Solangi and Makenzie Morgan. Lynne Alexander serves as the assistant tennis coach for the Bearcats.