P-T Girls Tennis Coach of the Year: Munster’s Bill Heuer
By Michael Osipoff 648-3137 or email@example.com June 21, 2012 11:26PM
Munster's Bill Heuer is the Post-Tribune Girls Tennis Coach of the Year. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Two seasons between regional titles isn’t much of a drought for most teams.
Munster isn’t most teams.
So when the Mustangs won their first regional title since 2009, after beating rival Highland on the way to their 36th straight sectional title and 37th in 38 seasons — both state records — it was a pretty big deal.
Munster had lost 3-2 to the Trojans in regionals in each of the previous two seasons, 7-5 in a third-set tiebreaker in the decisive match each time, ending a Mustangs run of 16 titles in 17 seasons. With the realignment of this postseason, Munster and Highland landed in the same sectional, with the Mustangs eliminating the Trojans in a semifinal.
That win was something of a breakthrough for third-year Munster coach Bill Heuer, with his team’s win against Highland — which had opted to pair eventual state champions Vanessa and Aby Madrigal at doubles — paving the way for their state-high 27th regional title.
“We were happy to get through the regional after we came up short the previous two years,” said Heuer, the 2012 Post-Tribune Girls Tennis Coach of the Year. “And the sectional was even scarier with Highland coming over — they have great players and great coaching. It was a testament to the depth of our team that they ended up putting the Madrigal girls together at doubles. It was nothing negative toward their team; it was a positive toward our team. It took a little of the thrill out of it for us. But we thought we were going to beat them no matter what they threw at us. I guess they did too.”
The Mustangs’ season ended in a semistate against Carmel — again, part of the reconfigured postseason — losing 4-1 to the No. 2 ranked team in the state. They posted a 20-2 record, with their only other dual loss coming to Penn, another state tournament participant.
“I was very happy with where we finished up,” said Heuer, whose team ended the season ranked No. 7 in the state after having climbed as high as No. 6. “We hit 20 wins, which is a nice accomplishment for any high school team, because it means you had to win a few matches in the postseason. It just so happened we fed into a brutal semistate. It was stacked. We fought, but we just weren’t quite good enough to take Carmel out. But I thought we performed well against them, and we performed well throughout the season.”
Heuer experimented with the lineup throughout the course of the season, allowing the players to gain various perspectives. Five of the seven starters — everyone except Christiann Tavitas (singles) and Sam Sakevicius (doubles), coincidentally the only seniors — played both singles and doubles. After juniors Paige Heuer and Erica Tritsch had played the better part of three seasons together at doubles, the most recent two at No. 1, Bill Heuer split them up late this season, pairing Paige and Sakevicius at No. 1, and Tritsch and Mariana Rogers at No. 2. By the end, the Mustangs likely had their most competitive, balanced lineup — one that included Jessica Rooth and Nikki Heiniger at the top two singles spots — as evidenced by their match against Carmel, highlighted by Tritsch and Rogers rallying for a three-sets win.
“We were able to work the lineup around,” Bill Heuer said. “It was a challenge, but it was also nice to have that kind of flexibility. The last couple years, I questioned at regionals if I had the right lineup our there and attacked it in the right way. But the other team could change their lineup too. You just have to put what you think is your best lineup out there and hope you match up.
“Looking at the results of the year, who wouldn’t be pleased with how it all turned out?”
Heuer derives additional pleasure from any Munster accomplishments because of his powerful bonds to the school and the program. He played four seasons of doubles for the Mustangs, the first four of their current streak of 31 sectional titles in a row. His wife, Penny (Karr), was a standout, including playing her junior and senior seasons at No. 1 singles. Their children — Billy (who has gone on to play at Purdue, where he will be a senior), just-graduated Ryan (who will play at Marian as a freshman) and rising senior Paige — all have excelled.
“It’s one of the things I really enjoy, because it’s a privilege for me,” said Bill Heuer, who lost his mother in March the day before practice began, and credited assistants Dave Cafmeyer (the new Lake Central boys coach) and Penny for their work, particularly early in the season. “There’s definitely a sense of pride in being a part of this program. It’s a real neat thing for us as a family.”
“Losing a regional is rough as a coach, but it’s even rougher as a former player. It wasn’t just any school, but my school, the town I grew up in. There is some added pressure from that aspect. But it also makes it even more worthwhile when good things come out of a season. There’s pride in the school and contributing to the success.”
The Mustangs should continue that success for the foreseeable future, including next season. They are in line to return five starters, with other quality players also in the program.
“I feel lucky to be coaching Munster,” said Heuer, who will coach his first group of four-year seniors. “Not many schools have the talent base we have to start with. I like to think I make it better, but just the level of player Munster brings, draws from, I’m lucky from that aspect. I really have a lot to work with. I feel very fortunate as a coach.”