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Midwest Munster Monkeys, From Worst To First

October 29, 2011 02:35 PM
The Munster Monkeys of USTA Midwest are the 18 & Under tournament's live underdogs, sweeping their Day 1 matches.
Coach Karen Blauuw (right) revamped her team's practice methods in 2011, bringing in some of the best junior players in the region for hit-arounds.
By Kyle Kuhnel, special to USTA.com

SURPRISE, Ariz. -
The Munster Monkeys head to the Jr. Team Tennis 18 & Under National Championships in Surprise having never made it to the big stage before. In fact, the upstarts from Munster, Indiana hadn’t made it to their own USTA Midwest sectionals until last year, finishing the 2010 tourney 0-16 - good for dead last.

After last year’s disappointment at sectionals, Coach Karen Blaauw was determined to have her team ready to contend in 2011. In addition to their normal practice schedule, Blaauw scheduled simulated team tennis matches with her region’s best players. Her goal was to have her kids face the best possible competition and elevate their own caliber of play. 

Although the Munster Monkeys improved greatly over the season their trip to the National Championship was not secured until the final point of their sectional finals. 

According to Blaauw the journey from worst to first took a lot of hard work, dedication… and maybe some divine intervention.

Playing on adjoining courts, the Monkeys were in a fierce battle in both girls doubles and mixed doubles.  At first it wasn’t looking good with the girls down 2-5 in the final set, but the resolve and leadership of Paige Heuer surfaced as her and her partner mounted an incredible comeback and captured the final set 8-5. At almost the exact same time, the Monkeys mixed doubles team was facing what appeared to be match point. 

As Blaauw described it: "The tie-break was 5-all and the ball soared high and short. Our opponent was in a perfect position for an overhead that would have put us one point from elimination.

"I thought it was over, but as if God was watching over us, the boy hit it into the net and we eventually won the match.  It was one of those points you just don’t expect, but thankfully it never hurts to be a little lucky."

Once their ticket to Surprise was secured, Blaauw wasn’t sure what to expect yet she felt good about her team. 

"Having not been here before we thought we were as good as anybody coming into the tournament, but we would have to work our tails off – nothing was going to be handed to us."

Her team appears focused and determined to make a good showing. 

"Once we took the section I asked everyone if they wanted to come here for fun and just experience the feel of being in a national tournament, or if they wanted to win.  The team said to me, coach, put us in the best position to win and we will take care of the fun." continued coach Blaauw.

So far so good.  The Munster Monkeys won their first two matches on Friday and will head into the weekend confident but focused.

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