Despite getting the needed win from the Quincy doubles team over Normal Community in the third-place match Saturday at the Rock Island Class 2A sectional tennis tournament, Moline coach Jeff McCracken held off commenting.
He still wasn’t quite sure his team had just won its 11th straight sectional title.
Moments later, he was watching his team pose for pictures on the Quad-City Tennis Club courts, where the sectional had been moved for the second straight day due to rain. Moline prevailed on the third tiebreaker after the Maroons and Normal tied with 16 points.
How close was it? Moline and Normal both tied for the first and second tiebreakers (most state qualifiers with two each; most champions, one each) but the Maroons won on the third tiebreaker (round-by-round, starting with the semifinals for victories) and Moline had two wins in the semis to Normal’s one.
So the title went to Moline.
“For sure (it means a lot),” said Maroons coach Jeff McCracken. “Any time you can bring home some hardware as a champion it means a lot. It’s pretty special, especially after losing the conference last week.
“Moline is traditionally dominating conference and sectionals,” he added. “It’s nice to keep one streak going.”
The Maroons did so on the strength of two old friends — both state bound — after facing each other in the singles championship match.
Junior Shaddy Khalafallah, the No. 1 seed, beat Maroon teammate Shiv Puri 6-1, 6-0. Both are returning to state, Khalafallah after a one-year absence due to attending school in Oklahoma.
“This year the way I made it, means even more, because I was cramping in the third set (yesterday in the quarterfinals) because that was the match to get to state,” Puri said. “The way I fought to win that match made it mean even more. The goal was to get to the finals and help our team.”
“It was a fun match, playing with Shiv,” said Khalafallah of his friend since age 5. “It felt good because he had a rough tournament at conference. We were neighbors and grew up with each other our whole life.”
It’s clear Khalafallah has his eyes set on a bigger prize, next week’s state meet.
“This is where all my hard work pays off,” he said. “I need to work really hard going up to state.”
“We have good hopes (at state),” McCracken said. “He’s going to hopefully play well next week, but the competition is tough up there.”
Rock Island’s Josh Teggatz, who lost to Puri in the semifinals, took third place and advances to state, too.
“It’s not a surprise,” said Rocky coach Chris Gabany of Teggatz, a senior, returning to state. “He played well. The thing about Josh, he’s a grinder. He gives his all on every single point.”
Princeton Sectional: At Sterling, where the Princeton Class 1A Sectional had to be moved to play indoors, there were a lot people in green smiling.
Geneseo won the team title, advancing its top two doubles teams to state, and Alleman advanced singles champion Joey Miller and its top doubles team of Jesse Dyer and Ben Woeber, which finished fourth.
Miller rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the first set of the championship match, winning 6-4, then won the second set 6-0 for the title.
It’s a return trip to state for No. 1 seed Miller, a junior.
“He’s worked really hard since the beginning of the season,” Alleman coach Jose Garcia said.
Geneseo’s No. 1 seeded doubles team of Avery Dunker and Mick Haverland beat Will Chaney and A.J. Miller, 6-4, 7-6.
For the Leafs, Saturday’s title was the first boys sectional tennis title in program history. This is the first year of a two-class system in Illinois. It’s also the first time Geneseo has ever sent two doubles teams to state.
“A couple of rare items the kids were really excited about,” coach Kevin Reed said. “Did I expect it? No, especially after the day we had yesterday. We took to the courts last night at 7 and won our matches, then got up and played at 10 (Saturday morning).”