Alleman boys tennis coach Jose Garcia knows something about hard work and reachable goals.
In 2001, Garcia was a sophomore at Alleman and went out for tennis to prove he could make the team and thus win a bet from a friend. He never advanced higher than junior varsity. However, he kept playing and then went to the University of Dubuque where he played No. 1 singles and doubles and was team captain.
Saturday, he ended the regular season portion of his career as a coach at Alleman in a grand way with the Pioneers winning the Western Big Six championship, the first the school has won in boys tennis since 1994.
Saturday’s victory meant a lot to him, and not just because this is his sixth and final season.
“Being an Alleman grad (2003) myself and knowing what the tennis program has worked so hard to do, being able to accomplish this today means a lot,” he said.
As expected, the Pioneers' depth was a factor.
Not only did the Pioneers win the title in doubles behind the team of senior Ben Woeber and freshman Jesse Dyer, but they also got a second place in singles from Joey Miller and a fourth in doubles from the team of twins Dallas and Andrew Foss. In addition, every Pioneer who played Saturday won at least one match earning points, including sophomore Sean Gelski.
“We had a good team,” he said. “And the boys worked really hard. It was definitely a reachable goal and we were able to accomplish it.”
Dyer credited Woeber when explaining why the doubles team worked together so well.
“He has an outstanding backhand and I have a pretty decent forehand," Dyer said.
Dyer added that the team really wanted to “step up” for Garcia since they knew it was his last year.
“We wanted to win it for him," he said.
Garcia is stepping down to spend more time with his own school-aged kids and their sports teams.
Woeber said he did not see the title coming at the outset of the season.
The team clicked and benefited from some luck, he said, possibly referring to the fact that one of Moline’s doubles players did not play because of commitments to another sport.
It didn't matter to the Pioneers.
“It feels great, especially for my partner, too," Woeber said. "Being a freshman, when I was a freshman, I didn’t come anywhere close to winning conference or even be in the semifinals, so it’s good for both of us.”
Moline did get the No. 1 singles title from Shaddy Khalafallah, who spent his sophomore year at the Tucker Tennis Academy in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after winning the Big Six title as a freshman.
The 6-foot-3 junior dominated his last two matches, winning 6-0, 6-1 over Josh Teggatz of Rock Island, who went on to finish third before defeating Miller in the finals, 6-1, 6-1.
“I started really rough, came without a warm-up,” Khalafallah (20-4) said. “But I figured it out towards the end and started getting sets. Definitely (my height) helps my serve at times. I am more of big-serve guy.”
The academy helped him with his poise, he added.
“Shaddy’s pretty dominant in his play around here,” said Moline coach Jeff McCracken. “He’s head and shoulders above everybody else."
Alleman’s win did not surprise McCracken.
“They have a lot of good depth,” he said. “Today, Alleman and Quincy are just a little more solid.”
For the Pioneers, it was a day to savor.
“It’s a very emotional day for all of us,” Garcia said. “We’ve had great players, great teams. Finally, we were able to put on a performance we wanted. The boys came out did their job and played really well today.”