Dallas boys tennis makes history with district championship win

By JAY MONAHAN - For Times Leader
Dallas’ Alex DeRome plays a shot from Scranton Prep’s Rhys Kelly in their singles match in the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis Finals at Kirby Park on Friday. - Fred Adams | for Times Leader
Dallas’ John Toussaint reaches two return a shot to Scranton Prep’s Jack Habeeb during the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis finals Friday at Kirby Park. - Fred Adams | for Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE – Tennis may be a gentleman’s game, but Dallas had reason to let decorum slide just this one time.

One by one, the Dallas players entered the Kirby Park gates, raced down the courts to tackle Alex DeRome and leap into the first dogpile that the Kirby Park Tennis Courts may have ever seen.

The cause for celebration: Dallas won its first boys tennis district championship in school history.

The Mountaineers knocked off Scranton Prep 3-2 in a nearly three-hour marathon match to claim the District 2 Class 2A crown on Friday morning. Dallas advances to the PIAA championship to face Central Columbia at West Branch in South Williamsport on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

“My mom told me before I left today to enjoy every minute of what you’re about to experience,” Dallas’ John Toussaint said. “No matter if you win or lose, you made it to a final. And I really didn’t think we were going to go this far and to go to states. But here we are. I’m just happy.”

With the match squared away at 2-2, the decision came down to a three-set back-and-forth between DeRome and Rhys Kelly at No. 2 singles. Both traded 6-4 decisions to set up a third set with boisterous crowd’s sole attention.

“Usually it’s only my mom watching me,” DeRome said. “But with everyone out there supporting me when I win a point, it really gets me alive. It made me want to finish the match strong.”

DeRome won the first two games, but Kelly showed extra life by capping off three-straight games with a 14-stroke win to go ahead by a 3-2 score.

The Dallas sophomore won the final four games to clinch the 6-4 set victory. To win the fifth, he received a bit of luck with the ball landing three times just beyond the white line to his advantage. Leading 40-love, DeRome squandered three-straight match points. After retrieving an advantage, DeRome ignited the celebration by prevailing in a seven-stroke point.

“It was honestly the best feeling in the world,” DeRome said. “I love my guys and my team. They really supported me throughout the match. After winning the first set and lost it a little bit in the second, they really brought me back.”

Dallas won the first two matches of the morning. Dom Rizzo stayed undefeated on the year by taking care of Matt Tressler 6-0, 6-1 in the No. 3 singles. Shortly thereafter, Mark Roginski and Matt Dillon finished off Jess Farley and Dan Zych by 6-4, 6-2 scores in the No. 1 doubles.

After Prep’s Addi Signh and Harrison Oven defeated Joe Fioti and Pat Yurish at No. 2 doubles, Dallas had a chance in the top singles flight after Toussaint upset the district singles runner-up in the first set 6-2. Jack Habeeb followed with a 6-2 second set win. Toussaint had Habeeb on the ropes with a 3-1 lead in the third set, but Habeeb won the final five games to even the team score 2-2.

For Dallas’ team of three sophomore singles players and four senior doubles players, it was the fifth straight day of tennis action. Toussaint played in his second-straight day of three-set matches. DeRome credited coach Joe Pugliese not only for finally getting a district title but for keeping him composed through the busy week.

“But I’m pretty tired,” he added. “I just played a two-and-a-half-hour match. I’m ready to go to sleep, dude.”

Dallas becomes the first public school to win a District 2 Class 2A championship. It is the District 2 public school to ever compete in the PIAA Class 2A team tournament.

DISTRICT 2 CLASS 2A FINALS

Dallas 3, Scranton Prep 2

SINGLES – 1. Jack Habeeb (SP) d. John Toussaint 2-6, 6-2, 6-2; 2. Alex DeRome (DAL) d. Rhys Kelly 6-4, 4-6, 6-3; 3. Dom Rizzo (DAL) d. Matt Tressler 6-0, 6-1

DOUBLES – 1. Mark Roginski/Matt Dillon (DAL) d. Jess Farley/Dan Zych 6-4, 6-2; 2. Addi Signh/Harrison Oven (SP) d. Joe Fioti/Pat Yurish 6-2, 6-4

Dallas’ Alex DeRome plays a shot from Scranton Prep’s Rhys Kelly in their singles match in the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis Finals at Kirby Park on Friday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_dal_sp2_faa.jpgDallas’ Alex DeRome plays a shot from Scranton Prep’s Rhys Kelly in their singles match in the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis Finals at Kirby Park on Friday. Fred Adams | for Times Leader

Dallas’ John Toussaint reaches two return a shot to Scranton Prep’s Jack Habeeb during the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis finals Friday at Kirby Park.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/web1_dal_sp1_faa.jpgDallas’ John Toussaint reaches two return a shot to Scranton Prep’s Jack Habeeb during the District 2 Class 2A Team Tennis finals Friday at Kirby Park. Fred Adams | for Times Leader
Mountaineers win first team title

By JAY MONAHAN

For Times Leader

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports

Reach Times Leader sports at 570-829-7143 or on Twitter @TLSports