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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Homestead doubles player Bryant Zitlaw returns the ball during Thursday's sectional final against Bishop Luers. Zitlaw and Will Milne won 6-0, 6-0.

Friday, September 29, 2017 1:00 am

Homestead's challenger? Itself

Spartans sweep Luers to claim sectional crown

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

The Homestead tennis team is awfully good – it captured a sectional championship Thursday by winning 60 of 62 games – but what remains to be seen is just how good.

Even the Spartans can't say quite yet.

That's because the toughest tests are yet to come and also because the Spartans are still improving. Having so much talent, top to bottom, gives them the ability to really press one another during practices, and that has paid off in matches.

Of course, boys will be boys, and there are times the kids goof around, but those are few and far between for the Spartans as they focus on capturing a first state championship. (They were state runners-up nine times between 1980 and 2007.)

“This is a really great group of kids. They're very easy to coach and they come to practice every single day wanting to get better,” coach Kerry Mumma said. “They know the expectations – being the fourth(-ranked) team in the state of Indiana has a lot to go with that – and we've even had JV kids stop and say throughout, 'Hey, is this how the fourth best team is going to act?' So they keep each other in check. They come every day wanting to get better, and that's a coach's dream for that to be happening.”

The Spartans are 16-1 after their 5-0 home victory over Bishop Luers (10-5). The only match in which the Spartans lost games was No. 1 singles, where David Heiney beat Cole Scheible 6-1, 6-1.

“We just wanted to be aggressive and finish points quickly, practice the fundamentals of doubles,” said Bryant Zitlaw, who teamed with Will Milne for the No. 1 doubles victory over Noah Brown and Garrett Scheiber.

The Spartans, who beat 19th-ranked Canterbury 5-0 in the semifinals, have won sectional titles four straight years. Despite having 29 regional championships, the third most in state history, the Spartans have won only one since 2009 heading into the Carroll Regional, where No. 6 Leo or No. 9 Carroll await.

“People say, 'Well, hey, you're the best team locally,'” Mumma said, “and I tell them, 'Not yet.' Leo right now is the (defending) regional champ. They're the team on top right now. So until we knock off Leo or Carroll or whomever (in the final), then we're trying to get what they have. It's going to get very tough next week.”

The Spartans' No. 2 singles victory Thursday was courtesy of Thomas Weir, who defeated Johnny Woehnker, and Daniel Gilbert beat Charlie Burton at No. 3 singles. Tim Steiner and Nicolas Graber defeated Justin Albertson and Jack Nolan at No. 2 doubles.

“We really wanted to make sure we kept our fundamentals and played like how we knew we could play,” Milne said. “Our serves were looking good and our returns were looking good, and we knew if we did that we'd be fine.”

There's still time for the Spartans to keep improving, and Milne said they know they must be all business to achieve their goals.

“Knowing that we're No. 4 in the state helps us get on each other if we're messing around,” he said. “We try to have good practices every day. As we're leaving, coach always asks us, 'Did you get better today?' And we always want to answer that with a yes.”

jcohn@jg.net