No. 1 doubles partnership Leah Heimuli and Kate Cusick Truman continued their winning streak leading into a series of conference matches throughout March.
Cusick Truman is a senior playing at both No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles and has been playing for the Cougars for the last four years. Heimuli is a junior who played for BYU Hawaii her freshman year with a perfect record of 24-0 in singles and 19-0 in doubles play before transferring for her sophomore season to the University of Utah. Heimuli transferred to BYU for the 2019-2020 season.
“I ended up here at BYU because of (the) coaching, but I feel like overall it was a good move in all areas of my life,” Heimuli said. “I am a member (of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and I grew up always being a BYU fan. It didn’t work out originally, but I’m here now and I’m happy I am.”
This is the pair’s first season playing together even though they have known each other for years. Both Cusick Truman and Heimuli were hoping to play doubles with one another when Heimuli officially transferred and the coaching staff paired them together during training.
“When I found out that Leah was transferring, I immediately knew that I wanted to play doubles with her,” Cusick Truman said. “I didn’t say anything to anyone because the coaches need to do what is best for the team, but when they did put me with Leah, I was so excited.”
Their style of play along with their off-court friendship has made for a winning combo within the tennis program. The pair talked about how their aggression on the court and their ability to trust one another is what makes them a winning team.
“We both are aggressive players and we both have good hands at net,” said Heimuli. “In doubles, usually the more aggressive team wins because they are closing at the net.”
Both players have strong serves and returns, but the pair’s on-court chemistry is partly because of their off-court friendship. During an interview with the Universe, Cusick Truman and Heimuli were laughing and talking about the fact that while they take their matches very seriously they will make jokes and take breaks because their personalities complement each other. This relationship helps them be successful.
“We both know that we both want to win so bad,” Cusick Truman said. “We know we have each other’s backs.”
Going into each week, Heimuli and Cusick Truman strategize during practices by watching their opponent’s style of play, adapting during the match and trusting one another’s judgment.
“For example, when we played Denver, we knew they like to serve and volley a lot, so we worked a lot on hitting low at their feet or hitting down the line,” Heimuli said. “It helps to not feel as much pressure when we are in that situation.”
The pair hoped to be ranked by the end of the season before BYU cancelled all sports due to COVID-19. In several matches they came back from behind to win matches, proving they work well as a team.
“We are fighters,” Heimuli said. “No matter what the game is, it’s never over till it’s over, and I know that neither of us is going to give up,” Heimuli said.