Jim Gazzolo column: Moore serves up aces

Published 8:44 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

Another program within the McNeese State athletic department has come out of nowhere to receive national attention.

It doesn’t get the hits on the internet like the other team, nor does it receive nearly close to the attention.

There are no sellout crowds, no national television appearances, and no white-hot spotlight centered on their head coach.

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Unlike the men’s basketball team that raced into headlines, this program is left on the back pages, if mentioned at all. And its coach, as colorful and passionate as the guy who runs the hoops team, isn’t mentioned for every job opening that pops up.

Still, Gabby Moore has transformed her program into a winner at about the same pace Will Wade has done with the Cowboys.

Moore has taken a downtrodden women’s tennis crew and had them playing for a conference title in two years and earning a national ranking.

It could be called the best rebuild on the McNeese campus and few people know anything about it.

“What (Moore) has done in this short of time has been truly remarkable,” said McNeese Athletic Director Heath Schroyer. “I don’t know if people understand or knew how bad that program was. It was beyond a mess. She has changed everything.”

Moore will be the first to admit that she has gotten a lot of help from her players who were willing to buy into the new culture.

“I saw we had some talent but they were not used to winning,” Moore said. “We had to learn how to win and believe we should win.”

After a surprising first year, the Cowgirls finished this season even better, posting a 20-4 record that included a perfect 8-0 mark at home. They lost the Southland Conference title match to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 4-2 last weekend, keeping them from earning the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

“It was an incredible experience, an incredible ride,” Moore said. “There have been so many firsts. I’m proud of them.”

McNeese players went 91-29 in singles matches and 44-16 in doubles, winning at a .759 clip as a team. Freshman Anastasija Adeikyte led the way with a 17-3 singles record while junior Arina Gamretkaia followed at 15-3.

But it is Moore who has become the face of the program in the community, giving it the needed personal touch to relate to fans.

“We have so much support; we want to do whatever we can for this city,” Moore said.

A Southwest Conference and Historically Black Colleges and Universities national champion coach, Moore, the 2022 Southwestern Athletic Conference Coach of the Year, came to McNeese after spending five seasons as both the men’s and women’s head coach at Jackson State where she guided the Lady Tigers to a SWAC championship and NCAA Tournament berth in her final season.

What comes across from Moore is her love for the sport and the toughness she has instilled in her team. That was something she learned playing the game, not on the soft, plush courts of some country club but rather in more open places.

“I decided to go play tennis with my mom one day in a local public park and fell in love with it,” Moore said in a TV interview earlier this year. “She put me in lessons and the rest is history.”

Making history at McNeese is what drives Moore these days.

“When I took this job, the one thing I promised was to put McNeese tennis back on the map,” Moore said. “I think we are doing that.”

Moore is doing just that, even if only a few people are taking notice.


Jim Gazzolo is a freelance writer who covers McNeese State athletics for the American Press. Email him at jimgazzolo@yahoo.com