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Homestead tennis trying to reignite dynasty

Though just a junior, Homestead No. 1 singles player David Heiney is already a two-time all-state selection. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)
Though just a junior, Homestead No. 1 singles player David Heiney is already a two-time all-state selection. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)
Will Milne
Will Milne
Kerry Mumma
Kerry Mumma
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

Young Spartans hoping to establish new success

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 02:39 pm

Once when Kerry Mumma was a Wayne High School tennis player during the 1980s, he snatched a leftover Homestead tennis T-shirt at Wildwood Racquet Club and shoved it into his workout bag.

"Any time I'd go to a tournament or something tennis, I would wear that, just assuming someone would say, `Oh, you're affiliated with Homestead,'" Mumma said. "I wanted to have some of that Homestead reputation to help me."

Between 1980 and 2009, the Spartans were that dominant, making 18 trips to the state finals, finishing second nine times. They were envied and respected, and every area tennis program aspired to be them, giving the Spartans an advantage before the first serve was tossed in any match.

But then the Spartans faltered a little. They were always one of the area's top three or four teams, but Homestead has won only one regional since 2009. Things needed reshuffled, and Mumma was hired as head coach four years ago. His No. 1 goal was to get the program back to where it was before coach Jim Clark retired following that last regional title.

Now the Spartans are getting close. They are 10-0 so far and are ranked No. 4 in the state coaches poll. There's a buzz back around the program, in part because the Spartans have beaten some very good top 10 teams like Leo and Carroll. They are doing some things, beating quality state-ranked teams like they haven't done in more than 10 years.

The odd thing is Homestead is regaining its reputation under Mumma, but maybe not in the way he envisioned. During his first season, Mumma tried to recapture the Homestead aura by having numerous former players come back to talk about the past. It was an honest attempt, in theory.

"I don't think it really resonated with the kids," Mumma said. "The following year I had a few less, but I had some guys come in and talk to them. Last year I felt like they had heard enough of it, and this year, these guys don't even know who Jim Clark is. To me, he's like an older brother, but they don't know who Jimmy Clark is."

Which is a little strange considering the Spartans play in the elite Jimmy Clark Tennis Center. But to the current players, the Homestead tradition and former players helped build the facility, but it's not much a part of what they are trying to accomplish today. They respect it, but they are really trying to add their names to something new.

"It's nice to hear what people have done in the past, but when it all comes together it doesn't affect us," senior No. 1 doubles player Will Milne said. "All that really matters is this season. It is great to hear how well Homestead has done in the past and we see all the plaques on the wall with the pictures of the teams, but we want to be up there, to get back and maybe be the team that finally wins state."

The Spartans don't see themselves as rebuilding but maybe as establishing a cornerstone on a new Homestead tradition. They want to build something solid that will last for a few years.

"We're trying to look forward," No. 1 singles player David Heiney said. "We've gotten pretty high up in the rankings, but we want to go even higher and keep climbing. We still have a lot of work to do. There are other quite highly ranked teams who want to get to where we're at, and we have to make sure they don't work harder than us."

But Mumma and his players know if they aren't in top shape, No. 7 Leo or No. 10 Carroll will be waiting in the regional. A loss before getting to state will be disappointing to everyone's hopes.

"I think the kids are starting to understand that we want to make our own mark," Mumma said. "When you go around and hear Homestead, what do you think of? Right now it's probably basketball, boys or girls. I don't know how long down the chain it would get to boys tennis, but I would like that to be right there near the top again."

That would probably be worth getting the coach a new T-shirt.

For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

Once when Kerry Mumma was a Wayne High School tennis player during the 1980s, he snatched a leftover Homestead tennis T-shirt at Wildwood Racquet Club and shoved it into his workout bag.

"Any time I'd go to a tournament or something tennis, I would wear that, just assuming someone would say, `Oh, you're affiliated with Homestead,'" Mumma said. "I wanted to have some of that Homestead reputation to help me."

Between 1980 and 2009, the Spartans were that dominant, making 18 trips to the state finals, finishing second nine times. They were envied and respected, and every area tennis program aspired to be them, giving the Spartans an advantage before the first serve was tossed in any match.

But then the Spartans faltered a little. They were always one of the area's top three or four teams, but Homestead has won only one regional since 2009. Things needed reshuffled, and Mumma was hired as head coach four years ago. His No. 1 goal was to get the program back to where it was before coach Jim Clark retired following that last regional title.

Now the Spartans are getting close. They are 10-0 so far and are ranked No. 4 in the state coaches poll. There's a buzz back around the program, in part because the Spartans have beaten some very good top 10 teams like Leo and Carroll. They are doing some things, beating quality state-ranked teams like they haven't done in more than 10 years.

The odd thing is Homestead is regaining its reputation under Mumma, but maybe not in the way he envisioned. During his first season, Mumma tried to recapture the Homestead aura by having numerous former players come back to talk about the past. It was an honest attempt, in theory.

"I don't think it really resonated with the kids," Mumma said. "The following year I had a few less, but I had some guys come in and talk to them. Last year I felt like they had heard enough of it, and this year, these guys don't even know who Jim Clark is. To me, he's like an older brother, but they don't know who Jimmy Clark is."

Which is a little strange considering the Spartans play in the elite Jimmy Clark Tennis Center. But to the current players, the Homestead tradition and former players helped build the facility, but it's not much a part of what they are trying to accomplish today. They respect it, but they are really trying to add their names to something new.

"It's nice to hear what people have done in the past, but when it all comes together it doesn't affect us," senior No. 1 doubles player Will Milne said. "All that really matters is this season. It is great to hear how well Homestead has done in the past and we see all the plaques on the wall with the pictures of the teams, but we want to be up there, to get back and maybe be the team that finally wins state."

The Spartans don't see themselves as rebuilding but maybe as establishing a cornerstone on a new Homestead tradition. They want to build something solid that will last for a few years.

"We're trying to look forward," No. 1 singles player David Heiney said. "We've gotten pretty high up in the rankings, but we want to go even higher and keep climbing. We still have a lot of work to do. There are other quite highly ranked teams who want to get to where we're at, and we have to make sure they don't work harder than us."

But Mumma and his players know if they aren't in top shape, No. 7 Leo or No. 10 Carroll will be waiting in the regional. A loss before getting to state will be disappointing to everyone's hopes.

"I think the kids are starting to understand that we want to make our own mark," Mumma said. "When you go around and hear Homestead, what do you think of? Right now it's probably basketball, boys or girls. I don't know how long down the chain it would get to boys tennis, but I would like that to be right there near the top again."

That would probably be worth getting the coach a new T-shirt.

For more on local sports, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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