ALLEN — Last week was a long time coming for the Allen tennis team.
Over the years, the Eagles have made numerous runs to the regional tournament, including trips to the regional finals the past two seasons. They’re not far removed from snapping Plano West’s near-18-year streak of district victories, and have wins over several other powerhouse programs, to boot.
On Thursday, Allen at last captured one of the only accolades missing from its rise to prominence — a district championship. With that trophy within reach more so now than ever, the Eagles left nothing to chance in a decisive 10-0 sweep of Denton Guyer to hoist the 5-6A title.
“It’s a really cool deal. We’ve beaten multiple district champions, regional champions and even state qualifiers over the years, but we’ve never had that accolade of getting first in the district,” said Justin Quest, Allen head coach. “We’ve been a very good team the last several years, so for our program and our kids, this is a tremendous opportunity.”
It’s the program’s first district championship since at least 2000, according to Quest — one that seemed imminent given how Allen conducted itself through district play. Realigned away from rival West and into 5-6A, the Eagles made short work of their conference schedule — outscoring their six district opponents, 113-6, during the regular season before topping the duo of Prosper and Guyer, 22-0, in the 5-6A tournament.
“We lost a lot of kiddos last year, but the good thing about our program is we have some more who come back ready to step up and fill those roles the next year,” Quest said. “I think this year’s team has really picked up where last year’s team has left off.”
At the top of Quest’s lineup are senior Jordan Mitchell and sophomore Tejas Ram — Mitchell a former state qualifier during spring season and a longtime staple of the Lady Eagles, and Ram, who helped anchor the Allen boys to regionals as just a freshman last season.
Those two handled business in their respective doubles matches against Guyer, with Mitchell teaming with freshman Tejasvi Gutta and Ram with freshman Noah Hakim, while Allen got singles victories from junior Ali Goridkov, senior Jason Xie and senior Cole Phillips — all in straight sets as part of a decisive conclusion to the 5-6A schedule.
“Those two (Mitchell and Ram) are very experienced in tournaments and big matches, and then you add several freshmen in the mix, plus some juniors who are experienced but had been just outside the lineup and continued to work on their games, it’s been a really good mix this year,” Quest said.
The Eagles enter the postseason ranked No. 9 in Class 6A by the Texas Tennis Coaches Association. Allen was scheduled to open bi-district play on Monday against No. 20-ranked Marcus, but inclement weather forced multiple delays for the first-round bout.
On Wednesday, the Eagles and Marauders convened at SMU’s indoor complex in a playoff match won by Allen.
Wolves make it 21 in a row
Two postseason wins for Allen could very well pair them opposite longtime rival Plano West, which just completed the first undefeated regular season in head coach Morgen Walker’s tenure with the program.
The Wolves concluded that campaign with their 21st consecutive district championship — won after posting a perfect 7-0 run through 6-6A.
“It’s special. Every kid that has ever played at Plano West is a part of that. To know that all those kids have the common bond of being part of that streak is cool,” Walker said. “I don’t think it’s a weight on the shoulders of the teams that played — it’s just one of the targets each year that we want to achieve. That we’ve been able to achieve that one for 21 years is a testament to the kids we have, their work ethic and commitment to the team.”
The Wolves endured their share of primers for postseason competition, topping No. 11-ranked Coppell, 13-6, in a match where West went 4-of-7 in tiebreakers. West added non-district victories over reigning 5A state champion Highland Park, 15-4, and Southlake Carroll, 15-4, as tune-ups for the postseason.
“We’re playing pretty well. We’re playing well in our close matches and finding way to pull out tiebreakers and close out matches that are tight,” Walker said. “You’re not going to win everything two and two, and if you’re winning more of those close matches, you start feeling good knowing that your kids expect to step up and perform.”
The Wolves have plenty back from last year’s state runner-up lineup, including junior Ethan Scribner and sophomore Kishan Kersten to anchor the boys side, plus seniors Janet Pham and Elyssa Ducret as part of a deep girls rotation.
“They’re excited. The returners have done a good job of keeping the new kids in the loop as far as what needs to be done. They’ve taken the younger kids under their wing and shown them how we do it here at Plano West,” Walker said. “The younger ones are learning it and are excited about it — they see those signs around the courts and realize they have a chance to be a part of that now. Everybody is pumped up and ready to get this going.”
The Wolves, like Allen, had the start of their postseason delayed by weather — forced to travel to Ennis for a bi-district meeting against McKinney Boyd. The Wolves defeated Boyd, 11-0.