116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DUBUQUE - With the Wahlert tennis team returning a talented group of veteran seniors and juniors, the potential for a successful season is on the horizon.
Head Coach Christopher Gustas enters his second season with the team and has made an immediate impact.
'Coach Gustas is an amazing addition to the team even after having legendary Jim Fuerstenburg for a coach for the past 16 years,” senior Will McDonald said. 'I personally believe that he is the reason we were able to turn our season around and get so close to making it to state. Coach Gustas brings not only knowledge on how to hit better, but also strategy on how to win the match when the going gets rough.”
Gustas enters the season with three goals for the team.
'I want us to be a better team in doubles,” Gustas said. 'In a close meet, the six singles matches are usually split, and the winner of the meet is whoever wins two of three doubles matches. This means a lot of work on serves/returns, court positioning and net play.”
Gustas knows the importance of the mental aspect of tennis and he wants the team to improve on that, as well.
'I want to continue developing intelligent tennis players who know their own strengths and can confidently use them to win a match,” he said. 'I also want them to learn to exploit the weaknesses of opponents.
'My last goal is to increase our enthusiasm and become a very vocal team both at practice and at meets. Because tennis is such a mental game, adding the team aspect of support and excitement can increase confidence and change a tennis meet.”
There is no doubt this team has the potential for a successful season. McDonald and the rest of the team are looking to avenge last year's loss in the substate final and make it to state.
'As a team, we have been discussing our loss against Decorah last year, which ended our season,” McDonald said. 'We want to go to state and win this year. It is looking very good with all of our returners and our positive mentality.”
Gustas recognizes the potential for a memorable season and wants the team to stay focused.
'There are a lot of teams that can beat us, but there is no one we can't beat if we play to our potential,” Gustas said. 'Our focus is on what we can do day-to-day. We've got to keep our focus where our feet are. If we do that, the results will come.”
Returning for the Eagles are Cam Long, Jackson Takes, McDonald, Michael Scherr, Tom Auge, John Ott, Franz Becker and John Gruhl.
Long, a senior, placed third at state singles last season.
'Cam Long is a different style of player,” Gustas said. 'He plays like that old guy at the club who's a sharp shooter, has infinite patience and can execute a game plan. You add that to him being an 18-year-old athlete and it's no wonder he caused all that trouble for the top seeds at the state tournament last year.”
Takes, a junior, finished last season playing No. 1 singles for the Eagles.
'In the past 12 months, Jackson Takes has turned himself into a force,” Gustas said. 'He is as level-headed and talented as they come. I'm predicting he will make some noise this season.”
McDonald is a senior who played No. 3 last year.
'Will McDonald is such a hard worker it's scary,” Gustas said. 'He is never shaken and never tired. He's got all the tools as a player and is at his best when he's aggressive.”
Scherr, a junior, played in the team's fourth spot last season.
'Michael Scherr is one of those players who when they're on is just so good,” Gustas said. 'He's been working on consistency for singles but is undeniably a weapon in doubles.”
Auge was solid at the No. 5 spot for the Eagles last year.
'Our most famous tennis player may be Tom Auge as he has a way with words,” Gustas said. 'Tom's greatest attribute is his patience. He knows what he is capable of and stays within himself.”
Another senior, Ott, filled out the starting lineup last season in the sixth spot.
'John Ott decided to go out for tennis his junior year and boy am I happy about that,” Gustas said. 'He is, in my opinion, our most coachable player and has improved so much in the last year.”
Becker shared time at No. 6 at the beginning of last season.
'Franz Becker, who played a little bit of varsity last year, is in the running for our most improved player award,” Gustas said. 'He has really matured as a senior and a tennis player.”
Another senior, Gruhl, despite not seeing playing time, contributed to the team by traveling with them and keeping their morale up.
'John Gruhl is a senior presence that can't be overlooked although he won't find his name in the paper because his work for the team's morale will all be behind the scenes,” Gustas said.