This left him facing a tough decision. With the team talented from top to bottom, he would have to fight to gain a roster spot.
“I told him I couldn’t make him any guarantees at all as far as starting or anything like that,” Coach Sam Paul said. “To really think about, do you want to go through this again, and stick around and work and put everything into it?”
Gores decided he did.
“I thought we were going to get rid of him after last year,” said junior Ronnie Schneider, who has known Gores for four years. “Couldn’t quite do it, so he’s around for another go.”
Gores’ perseverance has paid off this season. Including his doubles loss in UNC’s 5-2 win against Virginia Tech on Sunday, his record is 9-3 this season in doubles matches with five different teammates.
Gores is enjoying every minute of it.
“This year has kind of been a dream come true being able to come back and be on the No. 1 team in the country,” he said. “Just trying to soak it in every day and have as much fun with it as we can.”
Even though he has not played in every match this season, his experience and energy have been invaluable to his teammates. He understands his role on the team and focuses on improving not just his own game every day, but that of his teammates, as well.
“I guess I’m the oldest kid on the team now being the fifth-year senior. So I definitely try to take on a leadership role ...” Gores said. “I try to share my experiences, my stories.”
Gores has been through it all — on and off the court. For some, being forced to compete for a roster spot would be too much for their pride. But that’s not why Gores came back. It’s about the team, not him.
He wants to guide his teammates to the NCAA Championship that has eluded them for so long.
“I’m really just trying to leave it all out there,” he said. “Because from a competitive tennis (perspective), this is the last, actually, two months that I’ll have for the rest of my life.”