Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Homestead No. 1 singles player David Heiney lost in a match-deciding third set last year against Park Tudor that sent the Spartans home after the state quarterfinals.
Brett Luke | The Journal Gazette Daniel Gilbert of Homestead prepares for a forehand swing during semistate at the Wildwood Racquet Club Saturday night.
Friday, October 12, 2018 1:00 am
Spartans on a mission
Not finishing as runner-up only goal left for boys
ELIZABETH WYMAN | The Journal Gazette
Who: North Central vs. Culver Academies; Columbus North vs. Park Tudor
When: 11 a.m. today
Where: Center Grove High School
Who: Floyd Central vs. Center Grove; Carmel vs. Homestead
When: 3 p.m. today
Where: Carmel High School
When: 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: North Central High School, Indianapolis
Admission: $5 both days
Before the No. 2 Homestead boys tennis team won the semistate last week, coach Kerry Mumma got his team together and wanted them to think about something.
“You know what's kind of a neat feeling is that we're going to be in the same building as North Central, and they're actually looking up to us,” Mumma said. “To my knowledge, it's the first time we've ever been ranked ahead of either North Central or Carmel. I told them, 'You gotta feed off of that and come in confident that they notice you. You beat them and that's never happened before.'”
Homestead boys tennis is on a mission. A mission to win and make a statement.
The dynasties of Indianapolis-area teams such as No. 1 Carmel, No. 3 North Central and No. 8 Park Tudor have dominated Indiana boys tennis for decades.
Of the past 42 boys tennis state champions, 40 have been Indianapolis-area schools. On Sept. 8, the Spartans defeated North Central for the first time. According to Mumma, it was the first time a Fort Wayne team ever did it.
“They just play with a swagger. I love the way they play,” Mumma said. “They've got two great coaches down there at Carmel and North Central and their kids really play with a lot of confidence. That's what for the last five years I've been trying to get our team and our program to do.”
The 3-2 win over North Central ignited a fire within the Spartans.
“We all played really, really well and that was just a big win for not only us but for our program,” No. 3 singles player Andrew Meier said. “We're normally behind them, but it's great because we made a statement against them. It just feels really good to kind of be the favorite now.”
The Spartans have the most runner-up finishes (nine) in the state. They understand what it means to now be in the conversation of the top tennis programs in the state, but know there's one thing missing to solidify Fort Wayne in that conversation a championship.
“We're kind of representing our entire city, not only our school, so every time we go down there we want to perform for our city and our school and see how we stack up against the bigger city,” No. 2 singles player Daniel Gilbert said.
Carmel is the only team to have beaten the 21-1 Spartans. That 4-1 loss has been on the minds of Mumma and his team ever since, and will remain on their minds until they attempt to avenge the loss against the Greyhounds in the quarterfinals today.
“It could be my last match ever, so I'm going to leave all that I have out on the court,” No. 1 singles player David Heiney said. “It just motivates us; last year we lost in the first round and we don't want to go out Friday this year.”
Heiney lost in a match-deciding third set last year against Park Tudor, sending the Spartans back to Fort Wayne with a quarterfinals loss. Still, the lone senior in the top-seven spots said, since they've been there before, they shouldn't be caught off guard this time by these top teams.
“It's going to be a more loud environment. There's always a ton of fans; they always bring a big crowd,” Heiney said. “Last time we were a little bit surprised about it. I think this time we'll be ready and hopefully this time we can get the win.”
Mumma said seeing Carmel once this season, despite the loss, has been crucial in preparing for a possible rematch in the state finals.
“We wont have that 'wow' factor like, 'hey it's Carmel,'” Mumma said. “Because we lost to them we have some room to improve, but I think seeing them and just knowing that we can play with these guys will hopefully take away some of that 'wow' factor when we do play them.”