When he was a freshman, Munster’s Jack Heiniger acquired the nickname “Little Big Man.”
While small in stature, he quickly became big in wins, both quantity and quality.
Now, as a senior with 87 wins under his belt to go along with a final four appearance, Heiniger has never loomed bigger.
“We will go as far as our seniors take us,” Coach Steve Lopez said earlier this week. “And Jack is the captain. His success will mirror ours collectively.”
Will it ever.
As a freshman and a sophomore, Heiniger ran up a record of 44-6 playing No. 2 singles. That included 2010, when the Mustangs made it to Indianapolis and defeated Delta 3-2 before falling to eventual state champion Carmel 5-0 in the semifinals. It was the only loss of the year for the Mustangs.
In 2011, Munster faced Carmel again, this time at the Culver semistate. Once again, the Greyhounds came out on top by a 5-0 score.
“They have had our number the last couple of years,” Heiniger said. “But this is a new year, and anything can happen out on the courts.”
Heiniger’s calm, cool demeanor is a great influence on the No. 9 ranked Mustangs as they look for their 13th semistate championship this weekend in Culver -- and the opponent once again is No. 1 Carmel.
“If we are going to be able to get to Indianapolis, we will have to go through Carmel,” Heiniger said. “We knew that. The challenge is fun, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Fun is a word Heiniger used to describe his senior season.
“We have five seniors playing right now,” Heiniger said. “We have been through a lot together these last four seasons. We have had a lot of great wins together, and a few really tough losses. We’re enjoying this last shot together.”
Heiniger moved up to No. 1 singles his junior season. He suffered his most losses of a single season (six) and fell short of his goal of another semistate title.
“I wanted to do well and win every match,” he said. “There were a few lessons along the way. But I think I learned a lot that has helped me this season.”
His 22-1 record this season supports that statement. So would the tough competition he and the rest of the team faced at the Fort Wayne Canterbury Invite and the Buckley Tournament.
“We scheduled several of the tough teams in the state in order to gauge where we were and what we needed to do to get better,” Heiniger said. “We faced some very tough competition in those tournaments. We did well, and we feel we have a good shot at a win this weekend.”
The Mustangs (16-2) have only suffered defeats to No. 3 Canterbury and No. 12 Culver Academies this year.
“We were disappointed in our play against Culver,” Heiniger said. “It was a match we felt going in that we should have won. But we didn’t play well collectively that day, and it is a team sport. We all have to do well in order to advance.”
The same will be true of their match today against the Greyhounds. With two straight titles and a pair of undefeated seasons, Carmel is listed as the heavy favorite.
Heiniger is hoping to postpone the beginning of college visits for a couple more weekends.
“I’m not ready to be done just yet,” he said. “None of the seniors are ready to go home. We’re hoping to keep this going just a few more matches.”