The Mississippi State University men’s tennis seniors, the "fantastic four," will soon say goodbye to Starkville, leaving nothing short of a legacy in their wake.
Seniors Nuno Borges, Niclas Braun, Strahinja Rakic and Trevor Foshey played their last regular season home match Friday against the University of Mississippi.
Foshey, who is from St. Cloud, Florida, said the four could not have asked for a better senior-day match.
"With the crowd we had, the best crowd of the year, the weather turned out to be perfect," Foshey said. "We couldn’t have asked for a better situation, that’s why it made it extra special. The ceremony before the match was just unreal, I have family there and playing with my family, brothers, made for a great day."
MSU beat Ole Miss 6-1, with every senior winning their games in a satisfying final victory against an age-old rivalry. However, head coach Matt Roberts said it has never been about the rivalry and has always been about being the best team and teammates possible.
"There is a rivalry, but we don’t focus too much on that. For us, it’s about controlling what we can control and being the best teammates possible," Roberts said. "We play every point as tough as we can, we play as a team and we have a lot of fun doing it. The crowd was amazing today, it was a lot of fun out there."
Roberts’ mentality of focusing on the little things and letting other things, such as rivalries and rankings, work themselves out has taught the players invaluable life lessons. Borges, who is from Maia, Portugal, said he has learned the most from those lessons.
“I can tell for sure that I work much harder now, and I have a purpose every day in everything I do," Borges said. "Not just practice, and that’s something that I learned with Matt and the guys."
Foshey echoed Borges’ sentiment, saying Roberts taught him way more than just tennis, and Roberts has coached him for life beyond the court.
“Matt says it a lot to us, 'It’s more than tennis.’ I think the biggest thing I learned is that there’s more than just winning on the court,” Foshey said.
Through their years playing tennis together, the four seniors have formed indelible bonds of friendship, making their experience with the MSU tennis program memorable.
“I’ll never forget it, and these are relationships that are going to go way beyond this year," Foshey said. "We’re going to be best friends for a while, and they’re going to be at my wedding one day."
Borges agreed with Foshey, and said he believes the four seniors created something special in their time at MSU.
"We’ve spent so much time together it’s going to be impossible to forget, and I really believe we created something special,” Borges said. “It’s not just like four years passed, it was more than just average."
Not only was the team "more than just average" in their bond off the court, the 2019 senior class of MSU's men’s tennis has had a remarkable run.
Borges, Braun, Rakic and Foshey have won 78 matches as a team and are currently tied for the second-most wins by a senior class in program history. Two more wins would break the record, a possible achievement as two regular-season matches remain and then post-season play begins.
Borges holds the second spot in program history for career singles wins, first for career dual match wins and dual matches singles wins, and fourth in total victories, needing only eight more wins to break the record.
Borges and Rakic are MSU’s winningest doubles pair, while doubles pair Braun and Oradini are tied for third. Braun ranks second in career doubles wins and is tied for third in dual match doubles wins.
Roberts said the seniors will succeed in whatever they choose to do with their lives after the season ends this year due to their character and how they go about doing their business.
"They’re going to be successful in everything they do. They’re gritty, they’re resilient, gutsy. They’ve learned here how to build themselves up and push themselves out of their comfort zone," Roberts said. "And overcome that and then feel fulfilled in what they just did … I tell them all the time, 'Don’t play small, go for your dreams.' I see them being successful in whatever they do."
Borges said he plans to play professionally, Foshey said he hopes to compete against Roberts in the world of college coaching, Braun excels at finance and Rakic has a variety of great options to pursue post-graduation.
Although Roberts looks to the future of the team and is confident the new players will carry on the culture built by the departing players, he said this group of seniors is truly remarkable and will be missed.
"It’s really hard to put in words what these guys have done for their teammates and for themselves and for their university … it’s not about winning or being ranked this or that," Roberts said. "I don’t care what our ranking is honestly, but if I have eight guys pushing each other on and off the court, I’m a happy coach—and they embody that. They’re a dream to coach, they’re a dream to work with every day, and they’re going to be greatly missed."