It was supposed to be a rebuilding year.
Instead, the Fallon girls tennis team pulled off the improbable as the Lady Wave tied for the Northern Division I-A title and earned the No. 1 seed at Thursday’s regional team tournament at the Plumas Tennis Courts in Reno.
Led by a trio of doubles teams and steadily improving singles, Fallon captured its first-ever league crown.
Now, the Lady Wave (8-2) roll into the tournament in a spot previously unimaginable — the favorite.
“I full expected to be second, third, in that area,” Fallon coach Julie Moore said. “Not expecting to play for the championship.”
Fallon, though, caught a break when Incline (6-4) forfeited Thursday’s match vaulting the Lady Wave into Friday’s final against the winner between No. 2 seed Truckee (8-2) and third-seeded South Tahoe (6-4).
Fallon split with both Truckee and South Tahoe this season as the Lady Wave were nipped, 35-32, in a double-tiebreaker against South Tahoe last Thursday in the regular season finale.
Fallon, though, dropped Truckee in a double-tiebreaker on Sept. 30 to clinch its share of the league crown with the Wolverines.
“We are so evenly matched with those schools,” Moore said.
The key behind the their success has been the outstanding play of the doubles teams. Debra Beyer and Kali Strong, Fallon’s No. 1 team, leads the way, while Kayla Bekiares and Haley Lindsay, the No. 2, and Melanie Nuckolls and Izzy Martinez, the No. 3, all have winning records.
The singles players, though, have been more up and down, but have come through at various points in the season.
Even so, the relative inexperience of the team and their ability to win after losing five state qualifiers from last season has Moore scratching her head. Strong is the only player with four years of experience on the court, while two others are in their third seasons. The rest, though, are in their first or second seasons.
“We knew coming into the season we had potential,” Moore said. “I cannot be more proud of the way these girls have stepped up and just exceeded all expectations. I knew we would be competitive, but never did I think they would do as well as they are.”
The boys, meanwhile, took a tumble down the stretch and finished as the league’s fourth seed. They will battle Truckee and the winner advances to the regional title match against No. 2 South Tahoe (8-2), who won by forfeit over No. 3 Incline (6-4). Both Incline squads could not field teams due to fall break, according to Moore.
Fallon lost in a tiebreaker, 4-2, to South Tahoe last week, but earned the No. 4 seed.
“I think we can go into Truckee and get an upset,” Fallon boys coach John Moore said. “The first time around we lost 10-8, if we can just step up in a couple of matches I think we can beat them.”
Leading the way all season for the Fallon boys, though, is a pair of familiar faces. The No. 1 doubles tandem of Tyler Wood and Martin Beyer, who have qualified for two consecutive state tournaments, have only lost twice all season.
They will face their nemesis in the duo of Truckee’s Teagan Pado and Ethan Gotts, who are the only duo to beat Wood and Beyer.
Admittedly, Moore said he does not know the lineup, but is confident his club can turn the tables in several matches to advance to the regional final.
As for Thursday, Moore added he will focus on keeping his players level-headed.
“Sometimes they get a little excited and lose focus,” he said. “They are in check up until match time, it’s during the match where I have to keep their emotions in check.”