Boys tennis: Player of the year Jack Heiniger looking to the future
By Josh Lichtenfeld Post-Tribune correspondent November 26, 2012 11:12PM
Post-Tribune Boys Tennis Player of the Year Jack Heiniger, a senior, is photographed at Munster High School in Munster, Ind. Thursday November 8, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 28, 2012 6:24AM
Not many other teams in the area have a tradition quite as rich as the Munster boys tennis program. In fact, given this year’s 32nd sectional title in a row — a state record — not many throughout Indiana share such history.
But while 2012 will be remembered for resetting an IHSAA record and the follow-up regional victory over Northwest Indiana postseason rival Crown Point, the Mustangs and 11-year coach Steve Lopez also won’t forget the last season or legacy of No. 1 singles player Jack Heiniger.
“You can’t get the player back, all you can do is play with the hand you’re dealt,” Lopez said about the graduation losses of Heiniger and four other key seniors following Munster’s 17-3 campaign. “Jack, that one is very tough ... very similar to Billy Heuer (who flowed from a strong high school career at Munster to Purdue’s team).”
While Heiniger’s stats alone — a 22-2 record for 2012, with no local losses, and his place on the first-team all-state — give him the distinction of Post-Tribune Boys Tennis Player of the Year, it’s the continued trend of having maturity beyond Heiniger’s years that Lopez points to as a cornerstone of four successful seasons at Munster. Before Heiniger was promoted to the top spot during his junior year, his dominance at No. 2 singles helped Munster make back-to-back state finals appearances.
“Every year I grew physically taller, so every year I got more powerful shots,” Heiniger said. “I just focused on getting better, more consistent and being more aggressive with the ball.”
The approach seemed to kick in immediately. In Munster’s second dual Heiniger rebounded from a hard-fought win over Valparaiso’s Ben Kalisch, in the 2011 battle of top-ranked region programs, to exert more force in a 6-1, 6-2 decision over Kalisch on Aug. 22. The win helped Heiniger duplicate his undefeated local record from the 2010 season.
“(It was a chance to) get the confidence going and establish dominance,” Heiniger said.
Much like in seasons past when he remained calm and steady in pressure situations, Heiniger helped the team stay collected during the postseason. When a Munster senior and longtime doubles standout was found ineligible right before the tournament and the NCC squad’s historic win over Griffith in the sectional, the captains worked to maintain morale. The guidance was also there in the hectic loss to the eventual state champions Carmel at the semistate for the second consecutive year.
“Most of our guys played good in that match (against the Greyhounds), so we weren’t too upset at how we played,” said Heiniger, who’s now in the process of shopping out his college playing options at a number of NCAA Division II and III programs.
In two seasons at No. 1, he finished with a 42-8 record.
“I was sad to see high school tennis end, but I’m excited for college tennis,” he said.