Cathedral High School boys tennis overcame a lot in 2019.
The Irish during the 2019 season dealt with serious injuries while continuing to grow as a young team, and longtime Cathedral tennis coach Mark Noe said that made the season memorable and successful overall.
“We’re getting better every year, and the boys are playing more,” Noe said.
That improvement was seen vividly during a season in which the Irish finished 11-7 and ended the season with a competitive 5-0 loss to rival and state power North Central in the Sectional 48 tournament at North Central in early October.
The Irish finished the regular season No. 19 in the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association rankings, with highlight victories during the regular season over No. 4 Floyd Central, No. 15 Brebeuf and No. 19 Hamilton Southeastern.
“It was a quagmire of teams from No. 5 or so to No. 15 beating each other this season,” Noe said of Indiana tennis in 2019.
The Irish, who won the City Championship for an 11th consecutive season, featured a strong singles lineup that became critically important after two of the team’s varsity players – juniors Andrew Davy and Jake Steigel – were lost to serious injuries early in the season.
“It was a good season,” Noe said. “We had a couple of real big wins over good teams, and these were good kids. It was an enjoyable season. I was pleased with us beating some good teams.”
The Irish varsity most of the season featured a lineup exclusively of underclassmen, with junior Ethan Eckhart at No. 1 singles, junior Levi Wojtalik at No. 2 singles and junior Isaac Michael at No. 3 singles. Eckhart and Wojtalik were among the state’s top players, with Michael moving from No. 1 doubles to No. 3 singles after early-season injuries to Davy and Steigel.
“Not one senior played varsity, which is good for the future,” Noe said.
Eckhart went 15-5 and Wojtalik went 13-7, with both playing some of the state’s top players in each match because of the competitive, state-level nature of the Irish’s schedule.
“They paid the price with the schedule,” Noe said.
Freshman Sam Black and junior Alex Pohl played competitively throughout the season at No. 1 doubles, with junior Hanz Klemm and Christian Low moving up from the junior varsity to varsity early in the season and improving throughout the season at No. 2 doubles.
“The future looks good for us, but we take it one season at a time and will reevaluate as we go,” Noe said. “We’re close and we looked a lot better. We got to 10 wins [in 2019], and that was good and they were good kids. It was a good season.”
Noe said the Irish were a motivated team in 2019 and that he expects that to be the case going forward. Playing junior tournaments and staying involved year-round is critical in high-level high school tennis, and Noe said the current Irish team understands that – which should bode well for the future.
“After I finished speaking to the team after the season, my No. 1 player and captain [Echkart] said, ‘Yeah, guys, we have to all play in the offseason,” Noe said. “We have guys who play a lot in the offseason, and we have to get everyone else in there, too. That’s the key.”
Also boding well for the future: a strong interest in the program, with over 75 players playing at all levels of the program in 2019. Noe said he brought on additional coaches to work with the different teams.
“It was worth it,” Noe said. “It’s an honor for the kids to come out. It was a satisfying year, and as I get older I savor these seasons. I love it. We’re right there. The kids are buying into it. The kids have to be motivated to do it, but this season was a good step in the right direction.”