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.
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.
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.