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’88 Cajuns celebrate NCAA campaign

’88 Cajuns celebrate NCAA campaign

’88 Cajuns celebrate NCAA campaign

Bruce Brown
bbrown@theadvertiser.com

It was a special time, marked by special achievement, and for members of Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns men’s tennis team, 1988 didn’t feel like that long ago.
"It’s like it was last week," said Gary Albertine, who coached that squad into the second round the NCAA Tournament, still the school’s only appearance in the team event. "It feels like it’s time to go to practice in a little while."
The squad was honored at halftime of UL’s football game with Northwestern State on Saturday night at Cajun Field, part of a reunion weekend that featured a duel with current Cajuns earlier in the day and plenty of time to exchange stories and memories.
"We’re having a blast," Albertine said. "Without question those were the best years of our lives. I hadn’t been back in so long, and I hadn’t seen some of these guys in 15 years."
Albertine was joined by his All-American doubles combo of Ashley Rhoney and Bret Garnett, as well as Paul Reekie, Jay Bailey, Curtis Hollinger, Robert Pellizzi, David Hoheisel and Kirk Headley. Only Tony Minnis was missing.
"It’s really fun," said Rhoney, the tennis director at City Club at River Ranch and one of only two members of the team to stay in the Lafayette area. "I remember all the good times we had on the court and off the court.
"We really worked so hard to try to achieve something that had never been done before, and this was a close team. These guys all seem like your brothers."
"It feels like we were just here," said Reekie, the English import now a successful businessman in Houston. "The only difference is, it’s 20 years later with your kids. I had never seen Jay’s kids."
"I have nothing but fond memories of those days," said Atlanta-based Bailey, who was making just his second trip to Lafayette since his college days. "We were driving around town, and it seems it really hasn’t changed that much."
Garnett, the South Carolina product who formed such a deadly doubles team with Rhoney, is now living in Rhoney’s hometown of Hickory, N.C.
"It really is a small world," Albertine said.
"I took Ashley’s old job," Garnett said.
The Minnis brothers were Baton Rouge products, and both are back in their hometown _ Patrick in broadcasting and Tony coaching LSU’s women’s team.
As a newlywed, Pellizzi has some catching up to do with his teammates as he pursues business interests in Dallas.
Hollinger is a Lafayette attorney who has been active in junior development.
"They’re all like your kids, then you don’t see them for years," Albertine said. "(Current UL coach) Justin McGrath has treated us way better than we deserved this weekend. It’s like we all won Wimbledon."
That’s one of the few things the 1988 Cajuns didn’t do in that special era.

Published in the Daily Advertiser, September 18, 2005

Athletic Network Footnote: Tony Minnis
did participate in the tennis competition at noon. The quality of tennis displayed by the 1988 team indicated they are still spending some quality time on the courts.