Expect a three-way race for the Western Big Six boys tennis title Saturday at the Moline High School courts.
Defending champion Quincy may not return many of its defending champs, but the other contenders are not counting the Blue Devils out.
Moline and Alleman are expected to be in the hunt Saturday after finishing second and third last year, respectively, separated by two points.
“We are very close to Moline, and Quincy graduated some key players,” said Alleman coach Jose Garcia. Still, both he and Moline coach Jeff McCracken expect the Blue Devils to be in the chase.
Alleman has not won the conference title in 23 years but has gotten second a number of times.
“We’ve always had really good players and really good teams but just weren’t able to find that perfect day or chemistry at the end of the season and have come up short,” Garcia said.
He has hopes this year will be different.
“This year we are fairly strong on depth and having a successful season so far,” Garcia said. “If we can peak on the right day, which we are hoping is Saturday, then we can surprise some people.”
Moline, led by No. 1 singles player Shaddy Khalaffalah, certainly could be the Big Six champs, too.
“I think we’ve got a chance at winning the conference again,” Moline coach Jeff McCracken said. “This year we got Shaddy back, who is probably the strongest singles player, and we got a couple pretty good doubles teams.”
Quincy is led by a freshman — 4-foot-11 Zach Willing. Alleman counters with Joey Miller, who is 12-7 for the season, and Sean Gelski, who is 14-6. Another contender is Rock Island’s Josh Teggatz.
McCracken also likes his No. 2 singles player, Shiv Puri.
“I don’t think Shiv has ever lost to either Joey Miller or Josh Taggatz, who are probably the other two stronger singles players in the draw,” the Moline coach said. “So we may have a shot at the finals, too. But stranger things have happened. That’s why we play the matches.”
The doubles is where things can get interesting.
“I think all the doubles teams can blow hot and cold,” said McCracken, whose top team is Lucas Petre and Kacper Ryba. “(Doubles teams) are not always the most consistent. Doubles is a game of momentum. Whoever can get the momentum and hang on to It the longest, usually ends up coming out on top. I like our chances and what we might be able to accomplish this weekend.”
Alleman’s top two doubles teams are senior Ben Woeber and freshman Jesse Dyer (14-2) and the Foss twins, juniors Dallas and Andrew. “They surprisingly work well together,” Garcia said of the freshman-senior combo. “Their games complement each other very well, and it seems to work out.”
The Fosses (14-3) have played some at No. 1 doubles.
“We are hoping they peak at the right time,” Garcia added.