BOYS TENNIS

Moving Munster pair to doubles is paying double dividends

2011-09-27T22:00:00Z 2013-10-07T19:03:26Z Moving Munster pair to doubles is paying double dividendsBy Bob Moulesong Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
September 27, 2011 10:00 pm  • 

Four weeks ago, the ISHAA held the tennis draw for regional and semistate action.

That's when Munster coach Steve Lopez learned that his Mustangs have a good chance of facing No. 1 Carmel early in the semistate round.

"We are not trying to assume anything or look too far ahead," Lopez said. "But the truth is, if we win regional, we will face the state's No. 1 team in the next match."

In an effort to bolster the Mustangs' lineup for such a match, Lopez experimented with moving his Nos. 2 and 3 singles players, Ryan Heuer and Michael Kitchell, to the No. 1 doubles position. The result has been better than Lopez hoped.

"Ryan and Michael have done very well together as a team," Lopez said. "They are playing well together and solidifying the position for us."

Doubles play has long been an Achilles heel for the Mustangs. At one point during a four-year run to the state's final four, they were 1-9 in Indianapolis.

Now, doubles may be Munster's biggest asset.

In a match against No. 2 Fort Wayne Canterbury last Saturday, the tandem of Heuer and Kitchell went three sets before losing the match. While they didn't earn a team point, the duo did receive a healthy dose of confidence.

"We played them tough all match, including the tie-breaker," Heuer said. "Even though we lost, we know how close we were to a win. I think it gave us a lot of confidence to know that we could hang with them."

Confidence is something the pair will need in the postseason.

"I think we were apprehensive the first couple of days after the switch," Kitchell said. "But the more we practice, and the more matches we play, the more relaxed and confident we become."

The move also strengthened the Mustangs at No. 2 doubles, as the former No. 1 team of Taha Qureshi and Nathan Kondamuri were slotted into the position and have had great success.

"Both of our doubles teams are strong," Heuer said. "I like playing singles, and prefer to play there, but I can see why the coaches made the switch. We appear to be stronger as a team."

That was exactly what Lopez was seeking.

"I don't know if they realize how good they can be together," Lopez said of Heuer and Kitchell. "They have won eight of nine matches so far. I believe they could be one of the best doubles teams in the postseason.

"And our No. 2 doubles is now much stronger than it was. It gives us an edge."

Finding that edge at doubles could be just what the Mustangs need to avoid playing the bridesmaid's role again. Munster has won 37 sectional titles, 28 regional championships and 12 semistate crowns, but never the state title.

"The team feels pretty good about the switch," Kitchell said. "It shows in our play. We're getting better every day."

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