Girls tennis players of the year: Munster’s Nikki Heiniger and Paige Heuer
By Josh Lichtenfeld Post-Tribune correspondent June 26, 2013 9:50PM
Updated: July 30, 2013 8:10AM
Typically, in high school team tennis it’s the top singles player who garners the most attention. And at a high caliber tennis program like Munster this has often been the case.
But 2013 wasn’t exactly a typical season for the Mustangs. There was a key injury, a player that quit late in the season, a loss to a local team before the tournament, and some big decisions about the lineup that had to be made.
Perhaps the biggest of the roster moves was the shift of singles player Nikki Heiniger to join versatile singles/doubles player Paige Heuer in the No. 1 doubles spot. Heiniger was a proven contender in the singles order and Heuer had also shown she was capable to be in the singles group. But Heuer’s father and Munster coach, Bill Heuer, saw a bigger picture when he paired the tandem up toward the middle of the season.
“I don’t know if either one of them were very happy with my decision for them to play doubles,” the coach admitted. “(But) once they got into it, they realized it was the best plan for the team and they embraced it.”
In fact, this No. 1 team became Munster’s most stable point throughout the postseason. And following their run as the third-place finishers in the individual doubles state tournament, the two are the 2013 Post-Tribune Girls Tennis Players of the Year.
Aside from an early loss to Penn, the duo from noted Mustang tennis families went on a winning streak that resulted in a 20-2 record. The youngest siblings in their respective families also continued the tradition of a Heuer or Heiniger making an appearance in either the state finals or the individual state finals.
“We both come from tennis families; we’re just lucky that we can switch back and forth so easily (from singles to doubles),” Paige Heuer said of the relatively smooth transition. She was 25-5 combined in singles and doubles.
Heuer, who’s committed to play at Valparaiso University, is a seasoned veteran of doubles play, but this was Heiniger’s first go in this portion of IHSAA competition.
“It was a lot different at first, and I didn’t really like playing doubles, but we started playing it and I liked it,” the incoming junior said.
Before their impressive finish in the individual state tournament, the duo completed three key matches for the team. Less than a week apart between the regular season and the sectional, heiniger and Heuer twice defeated Highland’s No. 1 doubles team of Aby Madrigal and Holly Santaguida (Madrigal was a two-time reigning state champion in individual doubles). And in Munster’s 4-1 loss to eventual state champion Carmel, at the LaPorte Semistate, they picked up the team’s lone point in a 6-3, 6-3 win.
During the state tournament, they lost in their second match against the eventual individual champions from Evansville Memorial. They finished their season with a win in the consolation round over a talented Fort Wayne Dwenger team (last year’s runner-up).
Heiniger says she’s open to doubles again, but pinpoints the chemistry as the key to the big finish.
“I feel like we worked well together,” said Heiniger, who was 26-4 between singles and doubles matches. “We both knew each other’s strengths and it worked out very well.”