As a freshman last season, Munster's Jack Heiniger caught many opponents by surprise.
Coming in at an even 5 feet tall and approximately 90 pounds will do that.
After posting a 22-3 record at No. 2 singles, the word was out on Heiniger's skill level. But his sophomore campaign has been as good or even better so far. Heiniger will enter today's regional with a 20-2 record and a string of 13 wins in a row.
The biggest difference between the two seasons is confidence, according to both Heiniger and his coach, Steve Lopez.
"Team tennis is very different than USTA," Heiniger said. "Last year, I would feel pressure about letting my teammates down, and it was something I hadn't dealt with before. It took a while to get used to handling that stress."
In addition to feeling more at ease in the team element, Heiniger and Lopez put together an offseason workout program that helped with the physical aspect of the game.
"Championships are won in the offseason," Lopez said. "We did a lot of weightlifting and running this offseason as a team, and Jack did quite a lot of work. It helped him physically, which in turn helped his confidence level."
Heiniger agreed that the workout program provided a dual boost.
"I can tell I am hitting shots a lot harder this year than I did last year," Heiniger said. "I can drive the ball deeper with a lot more consistency."
The confidence that comes from that translates into other aspects of the game, according to Lopez.
"Now Jack is making directional shots across the court with much more consistency and force," Lopez said. "He has more faith in his shot selection, and that is making him a much more complete player."
The Times No. 1 Mustangs enter the regional with a 16-0 record and are looking for their 17th regional crown in the last 18 years. The prize at the end of that would be a sixth straight trip to the semistate at South Bend Clay.
Heiniger believes the team is poised for a strong postseason run.
"Even though we lost three seniors to graduation, I think we are a stronger team right now than we were last year," Heiniger said. "We are playing well at every position. I think we have a good shot at making it to Saturday down in Indy (final four)."