Push through the double doors of a gymnasium lobby at St. Joseph’s Academy, and the scene can be breathtaking.

On the left wall, from floor to ceiling and encased behind glass, are all of the state trophies earned by the school’s girls tennis teams. In fact, the display case is out of real estate.

“My mom (Rosemary Wellington) was the athletic director here and she said we were going to have tennis,” said Kathy Boles, a player from the 1960s who later became the program’s longtime coach. “We used to play tennis in the spring, and just played the Catholic schools. When that moved to the fall, she was all over it because she had good players. The first year, we won. The next year we did, too.”

Talk about a springboard that fueled tradition. The Angels have since become the best in the Show-Me State, and that’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted the St. Joseph’s Academy Girls Tennis Program with the Class of 2023.

The Angels have 31 top four finishes in the state meet, including 18 championships. Both numbers are the most in state history.

The state title years cover 1976, 1977, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2021 and 2022. The program finished as a state runner-up eight times, third three times and fourth twice.

The state runner-up years were 1983, 1984, 1987, 1993, 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2014.

Rosemary Wellington coached the 1976 and 1977 teams. Boles, her daughter, coached the state championship teams of 1994-1997, and Doug Smith (MSHOF 2023) coached all since 1998.

Five players combined for 13 individual state championships: Cindy Brightfield (1976, 1977), Kelly Mulvihill (1982, 1983, 1984), Lauren Guijon (1991, 1993), Kiki Stastny (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001) and Michelle Kedzierski (2006, 2008).

The program also has had 13 doubles state championships. Those teams consisted of Lynn Fitzsimmons and Tracy Kaemmerlen (1986), Jill Aboussie and Tina Harrison (1993, 1994), Jessica Bickel and Sarah Wood (1995), Julie Bockermann and Katarina Stastny (1996), Carolyn Kramer and Katarina Stasny (1997), Margaret Junker and Julie Schwarz (2005), Erin Jamison and Margaret Junker (2006), Katie Thome and Angie Tracy (2007), Grace Hyde and Taylor Reving (2011), Elizabeth Choate and Alexis Woodman (2018, 2019), Abigail Gaines and Elizabeth Choate (2020) and Emerey Gross and Abigail Gaines (2022).

Kerstin Benya was a senior on the inaugural 1973 team.

“I didn’t fully understand that Title Ix was coming and colleges would have to offer equal sports scholarships for men and women but Michaela Wichter and Rosemary Wellington did,” Benya said, referring to the federal legislation requiring public schools to offer sports to girls.

Winning state titles was much more difficult in those early years. At the time, the state tournaments allowed each team only a few players. But that changed over time, with the ability to play six singles and three doubles. Strength in numbers, as Boles called it.

Along the way, the Angels were not afraid to challenge anybody.

“We needed to expand, and we did,” Boles said. “We had only four courts, so we traveled everywhere. Nobody wanted to come here when they’ve got 10 sitting at home. So we’d go everywhere. But then it got to the point that schools didn’t want to play us anymore.”

Brightfield was among the Angels’ best players in the mid- to late 1970s and now is an assistant coach.

“To me, to see the team go from a small varsity group of girls to now, a very competitive team of 12 on varsity and 18 on JV, the program growth is just huge,” Brightfield said. “I love the fact that girls can play tennis as individuals, yet can part of a team and have that support and community. To build faith with our daily prayer at the beginning of practice or matches. To learn how to support each other during conflicts and challenges. And to be part of our school motto of ‘Not I But Me.’”

For Sarah Wood Perez, a player from 1994-1997, the teamwork meant everything.

“We were competitive but in a very positive way,” Perez said. “We encouraged the best in each other and challenged each other to do and be our best on and off the court. We knew matches were important even against ourselves. We understood and respected positions of play and understood that decisions were made based upon what was best for the team.”

Yes, team. That’s the best way to describe the Angels since Day One.