They fought, scrapped and maximized what they were.
That defined Cathedral High School boys tennis in 2022, and that’s what second-year coach Jeff Giles will remember most about a season of adversity for the Irish.
It was a season of success for the Irish, too – a season highlighted by memorable individual moments and big-time performances en route to another City Championship.
“We had some good wins at the end of the year,” Giles said of a team that also finished with an overall varsity grade point average of 3.93.
The Irish, who finished the 2022 season with a 13-8 overall record ranked No. 13 in the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association rankings, beat rival Bishop Chatard 4-1 in a Section 48 semifinal. They finished the season with a 5-0 loss to No. 2-ranked and eventual state champion North Central in the sectional final.
The No. 1 doubles team of John Schneider and junior Nick Schneider had a huge victory over Chatard at sectional, helping the Irish to one of their biggest team victories of the season.
“It’s always tough to beat a team three times, especially short-handed,” Giles said.
The Irish navigated a tricky early season with illness forcing shifts in the lineup. They then late in the season lost No. 1 singles sophomore Charlie Coleman to a stress fracture in his lower back. That moved senior Sam Black from No. 2 to No. 1 and freshman Chris Wojtalik from No. 3 to No. 2.
“We weathered the storm and it was Next Man Up,” Giles said.
Coleman finished the season 11-5 at No. 1 singles, with Black finishing 13-4 at No. 2 singles and playing No. 1 singles throughout the City Tournament and postseason.
“That was quite an accomplishment for him,” Giles said of Black. “I was pleased with his success at one singles. Not only in the city tournament, but to get a sectional win against Chatard in the first round was big. Seeing guys who weren’t normally at No. 1 and 2 singles hold the trophy as city champions at those positions was special.
“I’m proud of them for battling through. We took next man up, stepped up and played. It said something about them and made the team special.”
Junior Drew Whalen and junior Jackson Reed played the season at No. 2 doubles, with Carson Halum moving from junior varsity to No. 3 singles following Coleman’s injury. The Irish’s season once again came against a traditionally difficult schedule, with the program playing eight of the Top 10 teams in the state.
“I’d argue that it’s the toughest schedule in the state,” Giles said. “The team has taken on that mentality as well. They want to play the best teams. Seeing your players with that thought process is cool.”
Also key to the Irish’s season: a 12-player senior class that featured varsity players Schneider and Black, whose leadership was key during a season filled with difficult stretches.
“They stepped up,” Giles said. “They approached me at the beginning of the season and said, ‘Can we be named team captain?’ That typically not a position I have. I like to view the entire varsity as leaders and expect them to act like leaders, and be leaders, but those two guys came to me and said, ‘Can we be captains?’
“I’m glad we did. It helped during the key times – during the first few weeks and during the last two weeks – to overcome adversity.”
Highlighting the Irish season: Not only the City title, but a runner-up finish in the Columbus North Invitational with a narrow loss to then No. 4-ranked Columbus North – and a victory over then-No.8 Fort Wayne Carroll to finish third in the Carroll Invitational.
Giles said such moments set the tone for what he believes is a bright future for Cathedral boys tennis.
“Even though you go down in defeat, there’s a silver lining,” Giles said of the Columbus Invitational. “Then, you look to the future. We’re going to go down next year and our goal to win that thing.
“The future looks good. We’ll develop what we have next year, and move forward.”