Less than two weeks before the postseason began, the Wellington School boys tennis team got its first glimpse of what was to come.
The Jaguars had just six regular-season matches remaining when sophomore Milan Gonela joined their lineup for the first time in a 3-2 victory over Upper Arlington on April 30.
Gonela, who played for St. Charles as a freshman and had to sit out the first half of this season after transferring to Wellington, ended up being the final piece to the Jaguars' state championship puzzle.
Wellington had four players advance to the state individual tournament, with senior Connor Biernat and his brother, freshman Griffin Biernat, capturing the Division II doubles title May 26 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Then, on May 27 at Rey-noldsburg, Gonela teamed with Griffin Biernat to win the deciding match of a 3-2 victory over Cincinnati Indian Hill that gave the Jaguars the Division II Ohio Tennis Coaches Association state team title.
"When Milan played in his first match against Upper Arlington, it started coming together," sophomore Trevor Ball said. "We were able to start figuring out our doubles teams and I felt like our team came together for the first time. It's a good team and we just want to make everyone better. The energy of us going to state builds us up and has helped everyone get better."
Wellington beat Columbus Academy 5-0 on May 3 and Bexley 3-0 on May 14 to advance to the state team tournament for the first time. The Jaguars beat Gates Mills Hawken 3-0 in a semifinal May 27 before defeating Indian Hill.
Against Indian Hill, Ball won at second singles and junior Adam Sorrels won at third singles, but Connor Biernat lost at first singles and seniors Kolapo Dairo and Ryan Young lost at second doubles.
In the first doubles match to decide the championship, Griffin Biernat and Gonela lost the second set, but bounced back to beat Indian Hill's Maanas Pisati and Mack Ellis 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 to secure the title for the Jaguars.
"Every single guy contributed at different times, which kept us positive the whole time, which was huge," coach Tommy Haddow said. "It still hasn't hit me because we were the underdogs all year. (Indian Hill) was by far the favorite."
The Biernat brothers beat Indian Hill's Pisati and Ellis 6-2, 6-3 in the doubles final in Mason.
Connor Biernat, a Skidmore College recruit and four-time state qualifier who was state runner-up in singles in 2016, played first singles most of this season before deciding to play with his brother in the postseason. The Biernats didn't lose a set at the sectional, district or state levels.
"I was always thinking about (playing doubles with Griffin), and as it got closer we thought it would be a good idea," Connor said.
Griffin Biernat began the season at first singles because his brother wasn't available until mid-April because he was competing in USTA events.
"We kept each other up," Griffin said of playing with his brother. "If one of us went down, we helped each other."
Also at the individual state tournament, Ball survived a 7-6, 4-6, 7-6 victory over Dayton Miami Valley's Colton Morehart in a semifinal in singles before losing to Indian Hill's Andrew Pregel 6-0, 6-0 in the final.
"(The night before the team tournament) I had to get rehydrated," Ball said. "It was kind of a bummer to lose in the (state final in singles), but I'm still only a sophomore and I can grow and get better every year. In the (team match against Indian Hill), I was like, 'This is the state final, so I don't care how tired I get.'"
Without Gonela in its lineup for much of the regular season, the Jaguars went 12-4 overall and won the MSL-Ohio Division title, going 6-0 to finish ahead of Columbus Academy (5-1), Bexley (4-2), Worthington Christian (3-3), Grandview (2-4), London (1-5) and Whitehall (0-6).
In a sectional that concluded May 12 at Columbus School for Girls, Ball, Gonela and Sorrels took the first three spots in singles, the Biernat brothers finished first in doubles and Young and Dairo were fourth in doubles.
In the district tournament that concluded May 19 at Upper Arlington, Ball beat Sorrels in a district semifinal and Gonela in the final, the Biernats won the doubles title and Young and Dairo lost in the first round.
Gonela won his opening match at the state individual tournament, but was trailing Ada's Zachary Beaschler 6-1, 1-0 in a quarterfinal when he was forced to retire because of sickness.
"The week of individual state, I got the flu and that cut my individual state short, but it was amazing to hang in there and get the wins (at the state team tournament)," Gonela said. "It's definitely worth it, even if I go home and pass out."