Trip to regionals fails to net Allen a state berth: Play-back match goes against Pineda, Ahmad
With the potential for five matches in two days, the maximum amount of tennis that could be played by any entry in last Monday and Tuesday's Region I Tournament was 15 sets.
The Allen boys doubles team of freshman Dillion Pineda and sophomore Mustafa Ahmad played 13 sets in less than 48 hours and their fate was unsure until the final one.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, that last set was a 6-1 loss to the Southlake Carroll team of John Wooldridge and Collin Alexander in the play-back match.
"The boys lost the first set, but were able to fight back again and take the second set to force a third," said Justin Quest, Allen head coach. "But at that point, with the mental and physical toll it took for all the comebacks before that match, I think their luck had just run out."
That's understandable considering Allen lost the opening set in its first- (Southlake Carroll) and second-round (El Paso Coronado) matches Monday. The quarterfinal was particularly notable as Pineda and Ahmad were down match point in the second before coming back to win that set and the third.
"It was close all the way through, but our boys really fought hard," Quest said. "They didn't play their best tennis in the first two rounds, but showed a ton of heart."
Pineda and Ahmad finished Monday with their easiest match of the tournament as a straight-set victory over Odessa Permian punched Allen's ticket to the championship and a District 8-5A Finals rematch against Plano West's Brian Bulger and Parker Cohen.
And as was the case a week and half prior, the Wolves were victorious.
"Our guys did what they had to do in the finals," said Morgen Walker, West head coach. "They put enough serves in play to keep Allen honest, returned enough serves to put the pressure on them and had good volleys up at the net."
The regional outcome (6-2, 6-4) was the exact same score as the district finals.
"We just don't match up well with that team," Quest said. "But give credit to West, they played well."
Though Pineda and Ahmad procured silver medals, they still had to fend off one more challenge to advance to state.
"I felt like we had a good strategy going into the play-back," Quest said. "But we were pretty tired from the prior matches and a little dejected from losing to West. Southlake came out fast and all of the sudden we were down, 5-0. I think the boys were a little shell-shocked."
Pineda and Ahmad won the second set (6-3), but Wooldridge and Alexander bookended that with dual 6-1 wins to take the play-back and spot at state.
"I know the boys were disappointed they lost," Quest said, "but I made sure they knew how proud I was of them for getting that far."
Pineda and Ahmad will have future regional opportunities, but the same cannot be said for Allen's other competitors in Lubbock as last Monday and Tuesday was the last stand for seniors Jayce Miller and Megan Ziots (mixed doubles) and senior Lauren Pineda (girls singles).
Pineda, who won the district title, picked up straight-set victories over Hurst L.D. Bell and Keller Central in the first two rounds. The semifinals brought a step up in competition though as Pineda faced No. 1 seed Erin Walker of Abilene. Pineda displayed an increased aggression, but it wasn't enough to overcome the eventual regional champ. Pineda suffered another straight-set loss in the third-place match, dropping a 6-4, 6-3 decision to San Angelo Central's Claire Williams.
Pineda will continue to play tennis at Midwestern State, but the loss to Williams ended her time with Allen.
"Lauren has been a consistent performer on and off the court for four years," Quest said. "She has been a leader for us and a wonderful role model for any girl on the team."
The varsity careers of Miller and Ziots ended in Lubbock as well with the duo sweeping past Lubbock in the first round before losing to Coppell's Tyler Stayer and Abby White in the quarterfinals (6-1, 6-1).
"They played great in the first round," Quest said. "But Coppell was a bit too multi-dimensional for us in the second."