When Menomonee Falls senior tennis player and WIAA state singles qualifier Danny Balister worked with his friends Matt and Corey Dreier to get as many of their Indian teammates to work out over the winter at the Pleasant Valley Tennis Club in Jackson, they were just looking to improve the team for the spring.
But they had no idea that they were going to make a bit of history in the process.
'As soon as we started practicing (this spring), I knew we had the talent to be the best team I've ever been on, but I've been very surprised at how far we've gotten,' he said. '... We just worked hard over the winter. We got as many guys involved as we could.'
And because of that work, Balister will not be alone in heading out to Madison and the Nielsen tennis courts next week as he will be joined by the first doubles team of sophomore Corey Dreier and freshman Colin Fluegge and by freshman singles player Alex Budde, who earned a special qualifier slot to state.
It is believed to be the first time in Falls history that the boys tennis team has qualified multiple entries for state.
The qualifications put a capper on what has been a sensational season for the Indians, who won two tournaments this season, finished second in another and claimed a strong fourth in the very deep Greater Metro Conference.
'It was huge accomplishment for Balister who lost last year in (WIAA) subsectionals, which provided plenty of motivation for him in the off-season,' said Indians coach Matt Andreshak. '... It's a huge step for the young freshman Fluegge and sophomore Dreier, who battled all year against talented doubles teams of the Greater Metro Conference. They look to continue to battle next week.'
The Falls players earned their berths in the WIAA sectional meet at Wauwatosa West on May 25. They will advance to the state individual tournament at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Thursday June 2, through Saturday, June 4.
All three Falls entries will take part in first-round matches on Thursday, June 2. Balister is 13-7 overall, while Budde is 19-6 and Fluegge and Dreier are 13-10.
Balister, who will head off to UW-Whitewater next fall to major in business and possibly play on the tennis team, said he'll try not to be too nervous when he first steps on the Nielsen courts. He is a four-year letter winner for Falls.
'I'm just going to give it 100 percent, take it one point at a time and see how far I can get,' he said.
Balister said the extra work in the winter definitely paid off and so did having the challenge of taking on state powers like Marquette and Brookfield East and Central in Greater Metro play every day.
The former Junior Indians baseball player has been truly amazed at how far things have come this spring. He played some tennis recreationally as a youth but didn't start putting in a serious effort until the summer after his eighth grade school year.
He played second singles for the Falls varsity his freshman year and has held the top spot since his sophomore year on.
Balister said this spring has been amazing, especially the team victory in the eight-school Slinger/Hartford Invite on a cold, windy Saturday.
'We looked at the teams there, and we realized that we had a shot at it,' he said. 'When we won it, it was a real boost for our confidence.'
The key for himself and the team, Balister said, is staying true to the old axiom of 'one match at a time.'
'We don't ever look to far ahead,' he said.
That's why Balister was not looking past anyone when he took on Muskego's Rob Kim in the sectional quarterfinals on May 25. A win in that match would guarantee him an automatic berth in the state field and the subsequent, convincing 6-1, 6-1 victory was a fitting reward for all the hard work he'd put in.
'It was just a great feeling,' he said. ' I feel so blessed to have gotten this far.'
Balister wound up fourth in the first singles field, falling to Tosa West's Nick Price, 6-3, 6-4, in the semifinals and Homestead's Eric Mullins, 6-3, 6-0, in the third-place match, but his place in Madson was secure.
Fluegge and Dreier also needed a first-round sectional win to go to state, and they got it, downing a Tosa East duo, 6-2, 6-3.
'The young tandem really turned it on in the opening round, playing their best tennis of the year,' Andreshak said.
They took then took fourth after falling to Brookfield Central and Homestead duos.
Balister said he's excited for the future of the program as freshman Budde continues to compete well. Budde dropped his sectional semifinal to a New Berlin Eisenhower player in a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3) marathon. Andreshak said the effort took a lot of Budde as he also lost his third-place match to a Tosa East foe to finish at 19-6.
'Alex has a ton of potential,' Balister said. 'I'll be excited to see what he does in the next few years.'
Those efforts earned the Indians 20 points, good enough for fifth in the 13-team sectional field as Brookfield Central upset Brookfield East, 40-38, for the title.
All told, it's been a fun ride, Balister said, and it's not over yet.
'This is something I'm so glad to have been a part of,' he said. 'We've all put in a lot of hard work, and we're happy it's paying off.'