Close, but so far away.
The Munster Mustangs advanced farther in Saturday's 23rd annual IHSAA Doubles State Tournament than previously, but not as far as they had hoped to go.
Paige Heuer and Nikki Heiniger defeated Delta 7-6 (10-8), 6-2 in 6-2 in Friday’s quarterfinals to earn a berth in the state finals on Saturday. But they dropped a heartbreaking 6-1, 6-2 loss to Macie Elliott and Brenna Wu of Evansville Memorial in the semifinals Saturday morning and missed the championship round.
Memorial went on to claim the crown with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Park Tudor in the finals match.
The Mustangs then defeated Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the consolation round to finish in third place.
“We were really excited to make it this far in the tournament,” Heiniger said. “We wanted to advance to the finals, of course, but we know we played our best and did everything we could.”
Paige Heuer agreed.
“We played the ball, not the player,” she said, referring to Elliott. “We competed as best as we could.”
The consolation match pitted two even teams that traded well-played volleys all through the games. The two traded leads four times, and Munster took a one game lead into the final set three times.
“We wanted to win the consolation round and finish the season with a victory,” Paige Heuer said. “It was important to us to finish third.”
Coach Bill Heuer felt the Mustangs missed a couple of key opportunities in the morning against the state champs that could have swung momentum their way.
“We played well overall,” Coach Heuer said, “but we didn’t execute at a couple of key moments that could have made a difference. Part of that was us, and part of that is credit that should go to Evansville.
"They played very well.”
Heiniger said the overall experience is one she won’t forget.
“It was different playing without the whole team,” she said. “But it was really exciting to get this far in the tournament. It was a thrilling experience.”
The Mustangs finished the season at 20-2.
Paige Heuer received one final accolade to top off her high school tennis career. She was selected as an All-Star and will be representing the North squad in the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association (ICGSA) North-South Senior All-Star event
The tournament will be held today at Center Grove High School.
Every year, the ICGSA selects the top tennis players from around the state to participate in the North-South competition. This is the 15th annual All-Star tournament.
“Both of my brothers made it to the All-Star tournament,” Paige. Heuer said. “I was really proud of making it on the squad. I can’t wait to play and represent Munster and the North.”