Pleasant Valley tennis coach Mark Allison recalls gold medal in doubles
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The Times News is running a series of stories asking area coaches and athletic directors to remember their “Most Memorable” sporting event. Today’s Most Memorable moment comes from Pleasant Valley tennis coach Mark Allison)
By TJ Engle
In the late 1980s, tennis courts were added at Pleasant Valley High School.
Originally, the thought was to run an intramural program for the students. But it didn’t take long to expand on those plans.
In 1991, just a couple of years after the courts were installed, the Pleasant Valley School Board decided to make tennis a varsity sport.
At that same time, it named Mark Allison its first coach.
A lot has changed in the nearly three decades since the Bears played their first tennis match, but one thing has remained constant - Allison is still the head coach, having served in that capacity for both the boys and girls programs for the last 29 years.
Between the regular season and postseason, Allison has witnessed well over 1,000 Pleasant Valley tennis matches.
Still, it was fairly easy for Allison to pick one match as his “Most Memorable.”
“There have been a lot of great matches during my years coaching the boys and girls teams,” said Allison. “But there’s one that I think will always stick in my mind. It was definitely memorable.”
Allison was referring to a postseason match that happened six years ago at Lehigh University - one that could arguably be called the greatest moment in Pleasant Valley tennis history ever.
“It was a boys doubles match against Emmaus,” recallled Allison.
The date was May 5, 2014 and featured the Bears’ team of Jon White and Jon Walmach playing for the District 11 Class 3A title.
“The first reason why it sticks out to me is because Emmaus was the No. 1 seed, and our kids were able to pull the upset,” Allison said. “The second reason why is because it was the first district tennis championship win in school history.
“It also put us in States, which was really exciting. We then went on to win our first round match at States against a team out of Pittsburgh. So, we reached the Final Eight before being eliminated. It was an incredible season, but the district win was definitely the highlight for me.”
But it wasn’t just winning the championship that makes the match stand out for Allison, it’s how White and Walmach won it.
In the match, White and Walmach defeated the Hornets’ Rowan Hobson and Matt FitzMaurice in three sets, 7-6 (7-3 tiebreaker), 3-6, 6-3. One of the memorable parts of the match for Allison was how White and Walmach bounced back after dropping the second set.
“I think the biggest reason of all was the quality of the tennis,” Allison said. “The Emmaus coach (Dimitri E. Diamandopoulos) and I were talking after the match, and we both said about how you won’t find a better-quality doubles match in high school tennis than that one.
“It’s the best one I have ever seen, and he said, it’s one of the best doubles matches he has ever seen - and he has seen a lot of high caliber tennis matches as Emmaus’ coach.”
If Allison had to choose a runner-up for his Most Memorable, he said it was a team competition.
“The other one I thought about was a boys team match and believe it or not, it was against Emmaus as well,” said Allison.
It was May 2, 2006 when the Bears knocked off the Hornets in the District 11 Class 3A team playoffs.
“It lasted forever,” Allison said. “All the matches were over - way over - except the No. 3 singles match. The team score was 2-2 so it was coming down to that match so everybody was glued to what was happening on that court.
“In the end, Joey Zarelli rallied after losing the first set to pull out a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 win. That 3-2 team win was really big for us as a program.”
Allison said the victory helped take the program to a new level.
“I think that win paved the way for a lot of the success that followed. It also put Pleasant Valley on the map as far as Lehigh Valley tennis was concerned,” Allison said. “It took a long time to build both the girls and the boys programs to a point where we could play with the Lehigh Valley teams.”
“Pleasant Valley isn’t really a tennis hot bed so it took a while. But I think the thing I’m most proud of is once we got it built up to where we were competitive and our boys and girls were both qualifying regularly for Team Districts, we have been able to maintain that level over the years.”