Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Sports

Plant City tennis hopes to take another shot at state

This was not the kind of big shot Harrison Heysek is used to taking.

Plant City's No. 1 tennis player found himself in so much back pain last month, he knew something needed to be done.

"Before school it was bad, real bad," Heysek said. "So I'm texting my doctor towards the end of the school day saying I need to come in."

Not too much later Heysek was the recipient of two big shots for the pain. Muscle relaxers, the whole gamut, for what turned out to be a pretty strong lumbar strain.

Needless to say it put a crimp in the start of the Raiders' season.

But Tuesday Heysek, still feeling a little slowed but "much, much better" was able to help guide the Raiders to an easy victory at Armwood. More importantly it was Heysek's fourth match of singles play.

"Ah yes, the fourth match," a happy head coach Dale Rice said. "That's the amount you have to have played in order to be eligible for the state tournament."

Plant City wants to make a return trip to the state tournament and is considered a strong candidate to get there. Wiregrass Ranch is tabbed as the favorite in District 4A-5, but the runner-up also earns a trip to the tournament.

The Raiders are 7-1 but very easily could be undefeated. In fact, it's almost a certainty they would be but for Heysek's injury. The lone defeat came in the second match of the season (Feb. 7) with both Harrison and his brother Spencer out against Newsome.

Even with the two missing, Plant City fell by the slimmest possible margin, 4-3. And in the No. 2 doubles match Austin Everett and Reid Adams, who is the No. 7 player in the team, nearly won but were defeated 7-6, 6-4.

Then again, there have been a trio of 4-3 victories — two without Harrison, and one where his injury came to the forefront. It was Feb. 14 against Chamberlain, perhaps the strongest team on the schedule to date.

It was a couple of weeks after the doctor's visit and Heysek "really wanted to play" against the Chiefs and their No. 1 Harry Fisher. After winning the first set 6-2 Heysek admitted to trying to finish off Fisher quickly, and dropped the second set by the same score. Heysek won the third 6-0.

But the drama was not over. Chamberlain won two singles matches, and then evened the match up 3-3 when Heysek had to withdraw from the doubles match due to the pain. It came down to No. 2 doubles, where Plant City's other brothers tandem of Jake and Kyle Cole came through with a 6-0, 6-4 win.

Heysek's routine has been altered since. No doubles for now. It came into play in the Raiders' next match, a 4-3 edging of improved Robinson that was the Knights first loss at the time. The Heysek brothers and Kyle Cole won, but the Knights took two singles victories and also won at No. 2 doubles.

So the decider with Kyle and Spencer at No. 1 doubles turned into a thrilling 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Fortunately for the Raiders it's spring break, giving Heysek, who said Tuesday he was "90 per cent better," time to fully heal.

He says the injury took place at a tournament at Davis Island early this year.

"I thought it might have just been being sore from playing three matches already that day," said Heysek, ranked in the top 50 among the state's Junior 18s. "I should be good now. Doctor has me doing a lot of crazy stretching drills."

Heysek says he wants to play at either Florida Atlantic or UCF, but sounds partial to FAU because of the hotbed nature of Boca Raton's tennis scene.

As for the Raiders, next up is a match against Strawberry Crest on March 19. Rice, in his 28th year of coaching at Plant City, threw in a little pre-district challenge by scheduling a trip to Jesuit March 25.

Newsome happens to be one of the other schools in Plant City's five-team district, so there will be a chance to avenge. Wiregrass Ranch, which is undefeated, will host April 1-2.

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