HIGHLAND | Something was missing, and it wasn’t just the sun.
Munster’s Nikki Heiniger and Highland’s Holly Santaguida were battling, but their partners from last year’s showdowns are finding new horizons.
Munster alum Paige Heuer, who teamed with Heiniger to place third at state last spring, is at Valparaiso University, while Highland grad Aby Madrigal is at Wright State.
Likewise, the edginess, flair and intensity that burned as hot as any local tennis rivalry for the last four years was missing from the 2014 regular-season chapter of the Munster-Highland girls tennis saga.
In a match devoid of drama, the visiting Times No. 1 Mustangs dropped just two games in a 5-0 win at No. 5 Highland on Thursday afternoon.
“It feels good because we tried to play well the whole match and not underestimate anyone,” Heiniger said after a 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles. “It was a really close (No. 1 doubles) match last year, and it was cool playing her again this year.”
Back when the state champion Madrigal twins were at Highland, the Trojans beat their Northwest Crossroads Conference and neighborhood rivals in the regional in 2010 and 2011 before joining the Mustangs’ sectional, where Munster won the 2012 and 2013 postseason matchups.
Munster (3-1, 2-0) dominated Thursday with the wind blowing parallel to the net and pushing a lot of would-be points out of bounds.
“A lot of games could have gone either way, but a lot of balls seemed to be bouncing our way today,” Munster first-year coach Pat Spohr said. “It’s hard to be consistent in this wind.”
The win gave Munster renewed confidence after a season-opening loss to Crown Point last week.
Heiniger, likewise, showed no signs of wear after a 3-hour, 15-minute match Tuesday against Kankakee Valley’s Molly Sanderson, which Heiniger won 3-6, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3.
“Playing singles is a little more pressure, but because I’ve played a lot of singles matches (since age 8) I’m used to it,” Heiniger said.
Senior Jessica Rooth, the incumbent No. 1 singles player who missed the Crown Point match, played No. 1 doubles with Melissa Tepperman on Thursday and won in straight sets.
Munster employed two freshmen Thursday, but Highland (2-4, 1-1) fielded a lineup where five of the seven players are new to varsity this season.
“We’ve got a lot of girls trying to learn the game and where to go,” Highland coach Jordan Heckard said. “We knew tonight would be tough, but we’re looking for continued improvement.”