THE MATCH

Written by Austin Woldmoe
6/17/20

Background:

2009 and 2010 were two of the best years of my life – my junior and senior year of high school. I remember back in 2008 when my high school teammate, Michael Farley, and I were chatting on AIM after school one day. Yes. AIM. The good old days. Michael Farley was a year older than me who ended up becoming an HSE doubles legend with Max Crouse. Look them up. They went 25-0 at #2 doubles and dropped just 11 games the entire 2009 regular season. Anyways, Michael and I’s conversation was something along the lines of: “Austin, you have to get your dad to coach HSE. We were right around #10-15 in the state as a team this past year, and I know Mark could help us be the best.”


I couldn’t agree with Farley more. My brother and best friend, Alex Woldmoe, was getting ready to be a freshman, and the previous coach for my freshman and sophomore season had just resigned. It was the perfect opportunity for my dad to step in. Alex and I’s begging worked. Mark Woldmoe was announced the head coach of the HSE Boys Tennis Team before the 2009 season. This was a big deal. For those who don’t understand, the top coaches in the state almost never coach high school tennis. They are too busy developing high performing juniors. But, my dad had Alex and I begging him. For background, Mark Woldmoe isn’t just one of the top coaches in the state, but he is the best coach in the state. And with him coaching at HSE, the sky was the limit.



The 2009 Season at a Quick Glance:

Coach Woldmoe gave the team three goals to start the season:

  1. Win conference

  2. Go undefeated in the regular season

  3. Beat Carmel


Weeks later, we checked off #1 as we won our conference tournament. Weeks after that, we checked off #2 as we won our last regular season match, finishing 20-something and 0. And a week after that was the big sectional showdown. #1 Carmel vs. #2 HSE. Often referred to as “THE match”.



“THE Match”:

For background, I like to think of the 2009 HSE tennis team as Brad Steven’s Bulldogs and the 2009 Carmel tennis team as Duke. We had a solid team, but from a talent perspective, it wasn’t even CLOSE. I mean, check the lineup out:

 
 

The match started after school on a Friday evening, probably close to 5:00pm. And for high school tennis standards, it was a packed house. I’m talking a couple hundred people were there to watch, which is like the equivalent of a football stadium packed at 100,000 in the tennis world (all my tennis people are laughing). HSE had its own bleacher for fans, and Carmel had its own bleacher for fans, and the two bleachers were going back and forth with chants. Also, HSE had some shirtless and painted fans running around like chickens with their heads cut off, which was awesome too. This was the moment that the HSE Boys Tennis Team had been waiting for all season long. Goal #3: Beat Carmel. 


And just like that, we were down 0-2, losing at #2 and #3 singles. Nihkil and Zac were absolute beasts that season, but just had tough matchups with Yee and Bertolini. Our #1 doubles team ended up squeaking out a straight set battle to get the match to 1-2. Thank you Alex and Chris. And our #2 doubles team ended up pulling off a miraculous win. I believe they were down 1-4 in the second set AND the third set to come back and win their match. Like I said, Crouse and Farley were machines. And just like that, the match came down to Mihir and I, with the match notched at 2-2.


This is where things started to get interesting. It was perfect timing. Just as the match was tied, Mihir and I were starting our third set. Everyone was getting fired up. Fans yelling at fans, Mihir and I getting into it. The first two sets were long sets. It was always grueling playing Mihir. Both mentally and physically. And as we started the first game in the third set, I started to cramp up out of nowhere. I was in trouble. For those that have dealt with cramps, you know that they only continue to get worse and worse as the match goes on. I couldn’t go out like this. I called out a medical trainer to try to help the best he could: potassium pills, massaging, etc. And that’s when I was absolutely saved by the sunset. Literally.


It was getting dark. Carmel’s courts don’t have any lights. I forget the game sequence, but I found myself down 1-3 in the third and had trouble seeing the ball leave Mihir’s racquet as he was serving bombs left and right. Now, the opinion of how dark it really was differed whether you were an HSE fan or a Carmel fan. HSE fans thought it was too dark to play. Carmel fans thought that Mihir still had 10-15 minutes to finish off a cramping Austin Woldmoe. Regardless, the HSE and Carmel Athletic Directors agreed that we would finish the match in the morning with Kumar leading, 3-1 in the final set.



Friday Night:

Two hours later, in typical Woldmoe fashion, we were talking tennis at the dinner table. I had managed to settle my cramps a little, and over some glasses of Gatorade, water, and a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, we began to talk about a game plan for the next morning’s third set. We talked about what went well in the first two sets, what didn’t, and what I needed to do to comeback from 1-3 down to help win HSE Boys Tennis its first ever sectionals title, and victory over Carmel. Surprisingly, I just remember feeling calm and that I was given an amazing second chance. The sunset bailed me out. I was playing with house money. My dad wanted me to envision myself playing out the final point the next day. I kept seeing myself on the Ad court, hitting a lefty slice serve out wide to Mihir’s backhand to close out the match.



Saturday Morning:

It was a cold, cold October morning. At 8:00am, I remember that when I stepped onto the court to warm up about an hour before match, it was 32 degrees. Fans were piling back into the bleachers and around the courts for the early morning start. They came for more. I had wanted to make a statement to Mihir and the Carmel team that I was feeling good and strong: I warmed up in shorts and a cut off shirt on my designated warm-up court, while all the players and fans were bundled up. I felt like a Green Bay Packers player, making a statement to the opposing team by wearing short sleeves before a cold winter game at Lambeau. The things that you do as a teenager.


As the sun began to rise, the match had resumed. And from the start, everything that my Dad, Alex, and I talked about at the dinner table the night before was working. I was in the zone. I was executing. And just like that, it went from 1-3, to 2-3, to 3-3, to 4-3, to 5-3 with me serving for match. The pressure was on. I was serving for it and Mihir always likes to make things difficult. No points ever came easy. But in almost the blink of an eye, it was match point for me on the Ad court. And what did I do? I hit my lefty slice serve out wide to Mihir’s backhand and the rest was history. I immediately fell on my back and the team and fans stormed the court as HSE Boys Tennis beat Carmel for the first time to win its first sectional title in school history.

 
 
 
 

After “The Match”:

Today, the HSE team still jokes around about how that #4 goal was never set, to actually win the state title, and how it cost us. Our goals stopped at #3: Beat Carmel. We ended up making a run at a state title, but fell just short. Center Grove managed to “HSE” our HSE Boys Tennis Team. We lost 2-3 and with the match on the line, I lost a heartbreaking match 7-6 in the third to lose and blow our chances at our first ever state title. It still hurts to type! But for those that play tennis or know tennis, that’s just how it works. Epic moments. Devastating moments. It’s a roller coaster ride, and on behalf of all tennis people, I can truthfully say that we wouldn’t want it any other way. Tennis prepares you for this thing called “life” in amazing ways.


And in a similar tone to Alex Toliver’s Naptown Notorious’ player tribune, I just wanted to recognize all of my embarrassing moments throughout junior and college tennis. I was a punk on the court at times, trying to get in my opponent’s heads. I was good at doing just that. So, for all of those out there that could be reading this, I want you to know that I am truly sorry for being a punk at times. I am embarrassed about many moments and have learned from it. And I hope you all are thriving out in the adult world.


On a funny ending, Mihir and I are about to be classmates at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business together. I have a picture of us provided below, which was taken recently and nearly 10 years after “the match”. Something tells me that we will be enjoying some beers together as he tells me his side of the story. And as he reminds me that the following season, he kicked my you-know-what in straight sets and went on to do a lot bigger things than I ever did on the court!

Cheers,

Austin Woldmoe

 
 
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