Thursday, October 12, 2017 1:00 am
Spartans' 7 leaders know their foe well
CHRIS GOFF | The Journal Gazette
Who: Park Tudor vs. Homestead
When: 3 p.m. Friday
As the Homestead boys tennis team begins play at the state finals Friday, David Heiney doesn't have to worry about playing a guessing game.
Heiney knows all about his opponent in No. 1 singles, Park Tudor's Aiden Harris. It was a natural acquaintance, given how long they've been playing tennis and as successful as they became on the state scene.
“It'll be a really tough match,” Heiney said. “I know his game. He knows mine. We'll see how it goes. (Familiarity) can work both ways, but it's pretty comforting knowing I know what his strengths and weaknesses are. It'll be fun.”
The fourth-ranked Spartans (20-1) want to see if they can measure up to No. 5 Park Tudor (14-4) on the big stage in Carmel. The winner will face either No. 1 Carmel (19-0) or No. 2 North Central (19-1) in a Saturday semifinal at North Central.
“Park Tudor's really good,” Homestead coach Kerry Mumma said. “They were third for a lot of the year. They're fifth right now. They're really strong at their doubles and at their No. 1 (singles), so I think it's going to be a great match.”
Ask the Spartans what got them to this point, and they mention unity. This is the program's first trip to the state finals since 2009, so there certainly was some element about this year's team that made it the one to break through.
“You said it best; they are the right group,” Mumma said. “This is the right group to get back. They all buy in. I've got seven leaders, if that makes sense.”
That would be everyone. Heiney, Thomas Weir at No. 2 singles, Daniel Gilbert at No. 3 singles, Bryant Zitlaw and Will Milne at No. 1 doubles, and Tim Steiner and Nicolas Graber at No. 2 doubles.
“All seven varsity players are in some way, shape or form a leader out there,” Mumma said. “On or off the court, they get along so well, and I know that's cliche, but they like each other. It's very easy to coach them.”
Weir, a senior, credits Heiney, a junior, for being Homestead's emotional heartbeat.
“David gets really loud with the crowd,” Weir said. “When you cheer across courts, the team chemistry is just there, and it helps a lot. He's upped it. He's taken from Rafael Nadal with his fist pumps.”
In a 5-0 semistate win over Delta, Heiney frequently pumped his fist and let out a shout after turning events in his favor. Even several courts away, his teammates hear Heiney's show of emotion.
“A lot of the big matches I'm pretty emotional,” Heiney said. “I feed off them, and then they feed off me. It's a never-ending cycle that works really well for us.”
Mumma encouraged this.
“David has really let that come out this year,” Mumma said. “I challenged him at the beginning of the year. I said, 'David, when you're playing with energy like that, I as a coach need you to do that,' and he's done it.”
Weir traces the cohesiveness to when most of the team met at an early age. Now, in the hallways at school, Homestead football players have started to notice, telling the tennis players they are doing great things.
“Everyone is extremely close,” Heiney said. “We're all really close. That really helps because there's no bad blood or anything on this team.”