Aaron Chalstrom knows each and every time he steps on the tennis court this spring, there will be a huge target on his back.
Chalstrom, a three-time Class 1A state finalist, started off his senior season by helping St. Edmond defeat intra-city rival Fort Dodge here Thursday, 8-3.
Behind four wins in singles and four more in doubles, the Gaels (1-0 overall) were able to score another dual meet victory over the Dodgers (0-1) in the season opener for both programs.
Despite taking eight of the 11 matches, SEHS head coach Jacob Short knows the meet was much closer than that. Four matchups - two in singles, two in doubles - went to a third set, with the Gaels winning three of those.
"It really could have gone either way," Short said. "Fort Dodge is a very good team and they played really well. I was really proud of the effort of our kids."
Chalstrom started things off by defeating Brian Murman, 6-3, 6-0. The St. Edmond senior tallied off the final nine points of the match, and did so by showing some unusual play for him.
ST. EDMOND 8, FORT DODGE 3
Singles - Aaron Chalstrom, SE def. Brian Murman, 6-3, 6-0; Caleb Hendrickson, FD def. John Eide, 6-2, 6-1; Andrew Stover, FD def. Ben Albright, 7-6, 6-4, 10-3; Konrad Laufersweiler, SE def. Seth Dolan, 3-67, 7-5, 14-12; Zach Gailey, SE def. Nick Pecka, 6-2, 6-2; Jimmy Averill, SE def. Rob Leigh, 6-1, 6-3.
Doubles - Chalstrom/Eide, SE def. Murman/Stover, 4-6, 6-2, 10-7; Hendrickson/Dolan, FD def. Albright/Laufersweiler, 6-4, 6-1; Gailey/Averill, SE def. Pecka/Nathan Moore, 6-2, 6-0; Pat Hancock/Cory Woodhouse, SE def. Leigh/Steve Liao, 0-6, 6-3, 10-3; Hunter Horbach/Jacob Meyer, SE def. Ben Ahlers/Austin Sanford, 6-0, 6-4.
St. Edmond JV winners: Alex Mericle, Bryce Keeton/Austin Porter, Kyle Lawler/Jon-Michael Lee (2).
Fort Dodge JV winner: Tim Hatton/Matt Olsthoorn.
Murman, who competes with his emotion on his sleeve, reacted to a close first set several times, and Chalstrom eventually started doing the same.
"I try not to get too emotional when I compete, but I did (Thursday) and I shouldn't have," Chalstrom said. "I need to do a better job of controlling myself, but the moment got the better of me."
After coming up on the short end of three state championship matches, Chalstrom realizes that the pressure is on him this year. Still, he made sure to focus entirely on just playing Murman and not trying to conquer the field in one night.
"I have to play each match as it comes," he said. "I just have to focus on each match and play my game."
Short was impressed with his No. 4 player, Konrad Laufersweiler, who pulled out a three-set victory over Seth Dolan by capturing the final set, 14-12.
"Konrad losing the first set (6-3), he could have given in against a very good player in Seth, but he battled and pulled it out," Short said. "Winning four of the six singles, I felt like we were in a good position to win the dual, and that was because of Konrad's comeback."
Zach Gailey and Jimmy Averill tallied the other two singles wins in straight sets, while Chalstrom and John Eide, Gailey and Averill, Pat Hancock and Cory Woodhouse, and Hunter Horbach and Jacob Meyer picked up victories in doubles.
"Pat and Cory showed a lot of mental toughness battling back from a 6-0 loss in the first set," Short said. "Even the kids who lost played tough; this was a great way to start the season."
Caleb Hendrickson and Andrew Stover each claimed singles wins for the Dodgers, while the doubles pairing of Hendrickson and Seth Dolan earned the other win on the night.
"St. Edmond is a tremendously talented team," FDSH head coach Jared Feddersen said. "We learned a lot from our own team playing them. This experience should help us (going forward)
"I thought Caleb had a nice first outing and showed good, consistent play."
The Gaels returns to action this Saturday at the West Des Moines Invitational. St. Edmond will be joined by Boone, Newton and the host Tigers.
Fort Dodge travels to Dowling Catholic on Tuesday.