It is impossible to explain Dallas’ sudden rise to a boys tennis power house.
After all, the Mountaineers had never won a district championship. Better yet: no public school had ever won the Class 2A team trophy.
The recipe to Dallas’ success is unconventional, to say the least. There were no upperclassmen on the courts. Leading a group of freshmen and sophomores, John Toussaint guided Dallas to conference and district titles, in addition to a state tournament berth.
For his superior play and leadership, Toussaint was selected the Times Leader Boys Tennis Player of the Year for 2018.
“I think physically I’ve grown and gained a lot of muscle mass to help with my shots and control, and mentally I’ve grown a very great amount,” Toussaint said. “My ability to stay grounded and remain level-headed and calm has improved immensely. I’m extremely excited for next year and all that may come.”
Toussaint sent the Mountaineers into the district team finals with a victory at No. 1 singles. The sophomore battled Holy Cross’ Logan Gregory to a grueling 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-5 win that sealed the match.
“By the end of the match, it was a tough and hard fought win,” Toussaint said. “Also, I don’t have that much pressure during matches. Aside from the physical pressure tennis puts on every player, I try to remember that it’s a game and even if I lose, I know I played my best.”
Dallas claimed the Wyoming Valley Conference title with an undefeated 10-0 record. Toussaint nearly fended off Scranton Prep’s Jack Habeeb, winning the first set before falling 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. Teammate Alex DeRome endured a three-hour, three-set match to clinch the Mountaineers’ 3-2 win over the Cavaliers.
“To lead the team to victory at the first seat is a very large responsibility, but it’s so fulfilling in the end,” Toussaint said. “I look back on our year and how close our team got this past season, and I realize that leading our team to victory was only half of the fun. The other half was being with my team and knowing they have my back — win or lose.”
Toussaint had to overcome setbacks in the postseason. He was paired with rival Will Ziegler, of Wyoming Seminary, in the singles quarterfinal round. Toussaint broke three consecutive racquets in the match. He was unable to keep his composure after his second racquet shattered and fell 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 to Ziegler.
In the doubles tournament, he and Alex DeRoma came short to the Wyoming Seminary team of Ziegler and Duncan Lumia in two sets.
The son of John and Eileen, he did not have any difficulties with taking over the top singles spot in the Dallas lineup as a sophomore. Toussaint credited his teammates — DeRome, Dom Rizzo, Matt Roginski, Matt Dillon, Joe Fioti and Pat Yurish — for helping him with the transition.
“Of course No. 1 singles is a big responsibility, but it’s also just a seat and a name,” he said. “I led my team through our season, but not without help from my teammates. Being a leader is who I am too, which makes it easier.”
With a full returning lineup that will have more experience under their belt next season, Toussaint is looking forward to contending the team title and advancing farther in the singles and doubles tournaments over the next two years of his high school career.
“I am beyond ecstatic for not only my career but Dallas’ career for the next two years,” he added. “My only goal, and this has also been what I strive for, is to better myself as a tennis player and enjoy the game.”