When the 2013 tennis season rolled around the St. Edmond boys had a template for where they wanted to be, but the second time around they wanted to rewrite the final chapter.
In 2012 the Gaels pulled off an upset in the state semifinals and played for a state championship, but came up empty.
One year later they had the fire power to change the scenario.
“My junior year, we qualified as a team, and then we upset the No. 1 team (Boone, who had beaten us badly in the regular season) in the semifinals,” said Aaron Chalstrom. “I ended up winning my match against the same player I lost to in the state finals three days earlier. Jimmy (Averill) had a big comeback to pull out his singles match to help win one of the best team matches we ever played.
“Then we lost in the finals. We were disappointed, especially after a big win earlier in the day. We definitely felt like we let one get away from us.”
Just a week earlier Chalstrom had won the state singles championship. Joining him in the team state tournament was John Eide, Ben Albright, Averill, Zach Gailey, Patrick Hancock and Konrad Laufersweiler.
“Zach and Patrick both gave Aaron some great matches in practice. Zach had enormous raw talent and Patrick worked so hard to get to every ball,” Short said. “John and Ben played so well together as a doubles team and Jimmy and Konrad were very athletic so they all worked each other hard every day. I never had to worry about my team being focused during a match, it drove them crazy if they played poorly.
“We had a week to practice after Aaron’s championship match, and it was different than the previous year. There was a spring in our step as we used that momentum and confidence to work that week and prepare for our championship run.”
After what they went through in 2012, the Gael boys weren’t going to settle for anything less than a championship.
“The only goal we had was to win a championship, and the players put the pressure on themselves and handled it incredibly well,” Short said. “Most of them had played tennis since they were young, so that experience really paid off as they got to high school and played against better competition. A couple of the matches were close in the semifinals and championship rounds, but the players kept their poise.
“I will always have the vision in my head of the final point and my guys reaching the pinnacle of that season as a team.”
Chalstrom, who was a four-time individual finalist and a two-time team finalist, remembers how much fun it was to win the team title.
“Jimmy, Pat, Konrad, Ben, John and Zach were what made that time so much fun for me,” Chalstrom said. “I took my tennis pretty seriously, but those guys kept me loose and humble. As much fun as the tennis was, the hanging out off the court was more fun. I remember the van rides, road trips and team dinners much more than any match we played. To their credit, my teammates really worked hard on their games leading up to the following season and we were so much better in 2013. With another year of experience we were much more confident going into the team tournament.
“Pat won a tight singes match that really gave us a chance to win in doubles. Jimmy and Zach took care of business on the doubles court to clinch the title for us. Coach Short loved the team tournament and got us to buy in to that team aspect. It meant a lot to win it for him. It was rewarding because of what had happened the previous season and we definitely had grown a lot closer as a team.”
Even with the high expectations, the Gaels did what they needed to do to bring home a team title.
“The team and season were very special,” Short said. “The players had worked really hard, and to win a state championship is something they will be able to tell their families about forever. We knew we were one of the favorites in 1A to win the title, but we had to earn it.
“From day one, we didn’t talk about districts or substate, each match throughout the season was an opportunity to improve and make sure we were ready when those lose matches.”
Zach Gailey and John Eide gave this group another state championship, as they claimed a doubles title in 2015, joining Mike Huss and Steve Huss as the school’s doubles champions.
Chalstrom was the first Gael boy to win an individual title since Mike Conlon in 1979.