Midlothian tennis coach Greg Owen couldn’t have been more forthright.

When the third-year boss was asked how he thought District 5-5A would shape up, the reply was congruent with his on-court luxuries.

“Anything short of winning district would be a disappointment,” Owen said.

Considering he returns 14 of the 16 players who came a nose short of getting Midlothian out of the district tournament, the expectations aren’t a pipe dream.

Last season the Panthers, who earned a brief spot in the Texas top 25 poll, weren’t daunted by an ascending move to the 5A ranks. It was business as usual.

But, still, the Panthers were on the outside looking in when the top two teams from its district advanced in the postseason.

Both years in Owen’s tenure Midlothian placed third, but this year’s club believes it has the means to turn the corner.

“We’ve put in the work this summer,” Owen said. “We’ve been doing the things we need to do, so we’re hoping to break the third-place curse this year.”

The boys team returns each of its top-eight lettermen while the girls welcome back six.

Among the girls returners is sophomore wunderkind Julia Frandsen-DeLoach.

Frandsen-DeLoach made waves in her prep debut last season, garnering District 5-5A Freshman of the Year honors.

When she isn’t shining in the singles department, she’s teamed up with Kaylee Hullett in the doubles.

Frandsen-DeLoach, Hullett and Lexi Hendrix are all vying for the No. 1 singles slot at this point.

Midlothian’s girls lost a pair of starters to graduation, but it could compensate for the losses with the addition of freshmen Leann Wilson and Jaylon Walker.

Owens lauded the play of the wet-behind-the-ears duo and expects  them to make an immediate impact.

On the boys side of the equation, there’s also reason for optimism.

Tyler Honeycutt and Hunter Enderle reached the regional tournament in individuals last spring, but have also gained praise when teaming up in the doubles.

“Honeycutt’s gained a lot of confidence,” Norman said. “

Honeycutt will likely be the No. 1 singles player, but Jacob Morgan and Jacob Dromley will also be counted on in the individual portion of the matches.

As for the boys doubles, James Dean and Nolan Carr are another viable option but Midlothian will be doing a lot of mixing and matching early on.

Duncanville and Mansfield High also return a considerable amount of experience and figure to be in the district title race.

“They return a lot,” Norman said. “But we’re expecting to have a big year.”