It’s on the cover of the media guide, it’s in the game programs and it’s the first thing many fans notice while perched over a No. 3 doubles match at a Michigan tennis meet. “It” is a three-year-old Michigan baseball cap affixed to junior Vinny Gossain’s head.
Gossain first donned the hat when he was finally accepted onto Michigan’s tennis team. The odyssey that led him to Michigan was the result of a little determination and a whole lot of patience.
As his high school career came to a close, Gossain didn’t have any offers he liked. Michigan State tennis coach Gene Orlando showed a little interest in Gossain, but Michigan didn’t have a spot available.
“I wanted to come (to Michigan), but they had just signed somebody,” Gossain said. “I didn’t know if they would need anybody else.”
This wasn’t exactly the response of most people who hail from his hometown of Okemos, a city just three miles east of Michigan State. But like his brother Maneesh and sister Anuja before him, Michigan was where Vinny wanted to be.
Gossain decided to keep going out on the court after his high school season had ended, hoping his play could lure some more offers, especially one from Mees. Competing in the 2001 Midwest Closed Tournament, Gossain finished third and the calls began to pour in. Iowa and Wisconsin were seeking his skills on the court, but his heart remained with Michigan. Mees made the offer and Gossain’s choice was made.
“I didn’t have to do too much of a sell job,” said Michigan coach Mark Mees about his efforts to recruit Gossain.
“I’ve grown up coming up (to Ann Arbor) and watching these guys play,” Gossain said.
Gossain’s hard work and patience finally paid off when he was given the opportunity to join Mees.
“I played my way onto the team,” Gossain said. “That makes this a little more rewarding.”
Once he had a spot secured, Gossain had to take care of his headwear. The hat he wore throughout high school needed to go, replaced by one proclaiming to the world that he was a Michigan Wolverine.
“He’s someone who really cares about the team and the University of Michigan,” Mees said. “Sometimes, it’s gotten to the point where it almost affects him adversely, that he gets so worked up about wins and losses.”
Since his debut in 2001-02, Gossain has gone 21-24 in singles and 22-27 in doubles. This season, partnering with freshman Steve Peretz, Gossain has stepped into a leadership role and has a 6-2 record in doubles.
“He teaches me a lot about volleying and court position in doubles,” Peretz said. “We are also pretty good friends.”
Peretz, and any other teammates in close proximity to Gossain, are usually brandishing a smile. Whether it’s with a joke, a creative way to slam the ball in practice or a funny face made to the crowd, Gossain has a knack for putting everyone around him at ease.
Mees described Gossain as “happy-go-lucky.” Adding, “I think that rubs off on the guys.”
Despite his easy-going attitude, Gossain can be a very nervous guy. Whether it is up in the stands while his team plays singles, or down on the court in the heat of a match, his passion keeps him on edge.
“I actually get more nervous sitting up (in the stands),” Gossain said. “Especially the matches we’ve had at home that have been tight, my hands are clammy. I’m wiping sweat on people.”
As for the Michigan hat, it will remain on his head during matches, along with the same white wristband he’s worn on his arm, until his college days are over. There have been other pieces of clothing to make their way into his superstitious repertoire. Soccer socks last year were not successful, and he has now scrapped them. The team-issued shoes stay in his locker in favor of a luckier pair.
“Black socks haven’t been too good to me,” Gossain said. “I only won a few games with black socks on.”
The nervousness rarely prevails; usually the biggest smile at the Varsity Tennis Center is coming from Gossain after his team takes home a win.
“I have a good time,” Gossain said. “I only have these matches and a year (left). I might as well enjoy it while I can.”