Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Halfway through the season, Munster Coach Bill Heuer came up to freshman Anisha Vavilala and gave her the news that she was moving up to varsity and starting at No. 2 doubles. He then informed senior Mariana Rogers that she would have a new partner the rest of the year.
“I was so nervous I couldn’t really speak,” Vavilala said. “I didn’t even respond to Coach.”
“It was hard to process the change and what it would mean,” Rogers said. “To say it shook my confidence would be an understatement.”
But change isn’t always bad.
“This is as strong of a No. 2 doubles team as we have had since I took over,” Heuer said. “I really believe that Mariana and Anisha can go farther than anyone else did.”
High praise from a coach with high expectations. But a roster defection at the midway point created an opening on varsity, and Heuer decided Vavilala had earned the move up.
“Anisha is very athletic, with quick hands and fast feet,” he said. “She has all of the attributes needed to play well at No. 2.”
But Vavilala lacked varsity experience. Rogers took her under wing and began the process of cramming for the finals.
“We put in triple time at practices,” Rogers said. “We had to make up for lost time. Anisha was very eager and very quick to learn.”
So far, so good. The tandem carry a 9-2 record since they teamed up, and are undefeated in the postseason.
“My confidence level is back to where it was earlier this season,” Rogers said. “I feel like Anisha and I can compete with any No. 2 doubles team we play.”
Vavilala took up the sport in middle school, taking lessons and playing for the Wilbur Wright team. Rogers is the seasoned veteran who has played every position for the Mustangs. Together, they make it work.
“Mariana has been incredible to work with,” Vavilala said. “She has taught me a tremendous amount on the court about how to play certain shots and certain situations. My other teammates from both JV and varsity have been very supportive and helpful. It’s amazing how much help I have gotten along the way.”
Heuer said that Rogers’s dedication to the team and the sport is a big reason why the switch has been a success.
“Mariana did a lot more than adapt. She really stepped up and took charge of the situation,” Heuer said. “She showed a lot of composure and a lot of determination. She was going to make it work.”
On Saturday, the No. 14 Mustangs take on No. 1 Carmel. The Greyhounds ended the Mustangs season last year at the same location, same situation. But the No. 2 doubles team is hoping for a different ending this time around.
“I think we have as good of a chance as anyone to beat Carmel,” Vavilala said. “We will have to play a near-perfect match at every position, but we can do it.”
“Our turnaround came when we played Fairfield at the Culver Invite,” Rogers said. “That’s when I realized how good we can be. If we play at that level, we won’t lose again this year.”