Prep girls' tennis: Heimuli delivers under pressure
Leah Heimuli knew she'd have her chance in the spotlight.
But she had work to do and dues to pay as a freshman on the state champion Lone Peak girls' tennis team.
She had talent and drive to spare. And when the Knights' No. 1 singles star decided to pursue tennis without high school competition as part of the equation, Heimuli got her chance.
It just came much sooner than expected.
"I've had a great opportunity playing No. 1 seed," said Heimuli, who placed second at the 2012 state meet in No. 2 singles. "Whatever I do with it is just dependent on how I play."
She's capitalized on the opportunity.
Heimuli has one of the best forehands in the state. She's composed beyond her years and can turn to her superior control when things are just a bit off.
It's a fierce skill set that helped Heimuli cruise to an undefeated regular season and earn her a place as one of the best players in the state.
Still, she had to prove it when it counted.
"There has definitely been some added pressure being the No. 1 seed," Heimuli said. "Everyone looks up to you. I knew I was going to have good competition all year and I'd have to bring my 'A' game."
Heimuli did just that at the Region 4 championships. This time, it wasn't easy.
Heimuli and Pleasant Grove's Sarah Clifford engaged in a two-hour slugfest that saw monster ground strokes, big winners, and even bigger points in the No. 1 singles championship match. When the dust settled, Heimuli had prevailed 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 to secure the region title and keep the Knights undefeated in the tournament.
"She just does such a great job under pressure," said team captain Bonnie Nielsen, who was unable to compete due to illness. "She's just so consistent and dedicated to what she does. It's a huge boost for our team."
Now the two-time defending Class 5A champs will be armed with five No. 1 seeds heading in to the state tournament at Liberty Park on Oct. 9 and 12.
"We're confident heading in, but not too confident," Nielsen said. "We know we're going to have to play our best and fight the whole way."
For Heimuli, the ultimate goal is a state championship three-peat. But her first individual state title would sweeten the pot.
"All I can do is play to the best of my ability, no matter the outcome," Heimuli said. "I'll be up against the best, so I think they can help me do that."
State tennis tournaments
At Liberty Park
Class 5A • Oct. 9 and 12
Class 4A • Oct. 10 and 12
Class 3A • Oct. 11 and 12
Class 2A • Saturday