The 2023 season was about accomplishment for Cathedral girls tennis.
The Irish won two significant titles and had a chance at another, all while laying a foundation for what could be a strong future for one of Indianapolis’ top high school girls tennis programs.
“It was a good season,” Irish girls tennis coach Jeff Giles.
The Irish, a young and talented team with a bright future, won the Penn Invitational and City Championship in 2023. They did so against another difficult schedule for the program, and rose to as high as No. 4 in the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association rankings.
The Irish finished the season 10-6, losing to state and area perennial power North Central, 3-2, in a Section 44 semifinal at North Central.
“It's always back and forth,” Giles said of the longtime rivalry with North Central. “We had a thrilling match with them last season (2022) in the section final, and we had another thrilling individual team match against them this year at Cathedral and it came down to three singles in a third set there as well.
“We ended up winning that one 3-2 in the regular season and it just wasn't meant to be in the sectional.”
Junior Izzy Carrillo, the Irish’s No. 1 player, advanced out of the sectional individually with a 17-1 record with victories over strong players from Carmel, Park Tudor and Brebeuf Jesuit.
“She had a heck of a year,” Giles said. “The top players she beat had UTR ratings two points ahead of her. If you look at the UTR rating, she should have lost those matches three and three. So she played an incredible year.”
The sectional team loss ended Cathedral’s streak of seven consecutive sectional titles, with the Cathedral and North Central tennis programs expected to be in different sectionals beginning in 2023-2024. Irish tennis next season will compete in a sectional with Heritage Christian, Lawrence North and Lawrence Central.
Irish girls tennis also in 2023 continued its longstanding approach of playing one of the toughest schedules in Indiana high school tennis.
“We were the No. 4-ranked team in the state at one point in time,” Giles said. “Then there's just so much parity here with the teams around here. I knew we would see a lot of 3-2 matches in the middle of the season. We just started losing some of those close matches, 2-3. That dropped us a little in the rankings.
“We always play a tough schedule. We’re not shying away. We won some close ones and lost some close ones down in the stretch.”
Carrillo, junior Tess Wojtalik and junior Riley Kavanaugh finished the 2023 season playing Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles, respectively. Sophomore Izzy Ireland and sophomore Sophia Beeson, the latter of whom jumped from the freshman team to varsity in 2023, finished the season at No. 1 doubles. Junior Taylor Lewis and junior Caroline Beaty finished the season at No. 2 doubles.
“We went out and competed against the best to get ready for postseason,” Giles said. “We fell short, but it just gives you something to aim for next year.”
Giles said that aim should be high for the Irish, with a young team returning and expected to be more experienced in 2024.
“We had zero seniors on the varsity (in 2023),” Giles said. “We return everybody, then add a nice player incoming next year. I like where it’s headed. We've kind of been building towards next year where I think we can make some progress and really make some noise hopefully at the regional and sectional rounds and beyond.
“We really encourage offseason play, the USTA tournaments. I've got a number of the girls I've been speaking to as well as the parents, and they’ve bought in to not just the need for lessons, but more importantly, to actually compete year-round.”