Wheeler and Bathen get it done

Competing in doubles together, Newport Harbor High girls' tennis players Mindy Wheeler and Megan Bathen need to communicate on the court.

They needs to know if the other player is rushing the net or staying back, going for the ball or letting her teammate handle it.

That communication has helped Wheeler and Bathen excel for the Sailors, ranked No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section Division II coaches' poll. They definitely don't have a problem with the communication part, on or off the court.

"I'm definitely excited to see where we …" Wheeler said, pausing for just a split second.

"… end up," Bathen said, finishing the sentence to make her doubles partner smile.

Wheeler, a senior, and Bathen, a junior, are on the same page.

"We finish each other's sentences …" Wheeler started to explain.

"… like a married couple," Bathen said.

The Daily Pilot Athletes of the Week are good friends, and it makes sense. They have been nearly joined at the hip for Newport Harbor the past two years. They play at No. 2 doubles, but don't let that designation — relatively meaningless on a deep team like Newport Harbor — fool you.

Wheeler and Bathen went 53-4 last year and were undefeated in both the Sunset League and the CIF playoffs, helping the Sailors reach the Division II title match. They were the league doubles runners-up to their teammates, Christina Young and Ricki Archie.

After an intense summer of practice, this year's start has been just as strong. They improved to 24-3 after winning two sets against Los Alamitos on Thursday. Excluding the Sailors' lone team loss to Division I contender Peninsula, Wheeler and Bathen have been undefeated in their team's other eight matches.

Coach Kristen Case is not surprised.

"Their games complement each other really well," Case said. "Aside from the tennis, their personalities and their work ethic are much the same, which really makes for a powerful combination. They have two of the strongest work ethics that we have on the team, so there's that mutual respect. They both want it just as bad as the other one, and they push each other. They have a lot of trust that their partner's always giving 100%, and I think that's huge in doubles."

Wheeler and Bathen have become more aggressive, constantly moving toward the net. It's the type of doubles style that Case, a former CIF Individuals doubles finalist at Newport Harbor who also played at Cal, likes to teach.

Both said they started playing tennis competitively around the seventh grade, after playing other sports growing up. For Wheeler, it was soccer, volleyball and gymnastics. Bathen, the youngest of seven children, also played a lot of soccer as a kid.

But they took different paths to their success. Wheeler was on junior varsity her first two years at Harbor. She had success on that level, winning the JV league doubles title with Archie her freshman year and the JV league singles title her sophomore year. Still, she admitted she was a bit nervous moving up to varsity last year.

"I was kind of wondering how I'd fit into the team, but I was already close friends with so many of them," Wheeler said. "It was an easy transition."

Bathen has been on varsity since her freshman year. That year she gained more and more playing time as the year went on, at No. 3 doubles with Holly Hovnanian. She had success, even though she said she originally wanted to be a singles player coming into high school.

"I still play singles in tournaments and stuff, and I've realized it's definitely not as much fun to me," Bathen said. "Having the bonding between your partner and yourself, you get so much more out of it to me."

The whole team is close. Like all of their teammates they have nicknames. Wheeler and Bathen's nicknames are easy enough to remember, "Minders" and "Megs" respectively.

They both said they have the same favorite movie, "She's the Man." It's one the Sailors have watched plenty of times.

"It's kind of our team's movie," Bathen said.

In the movie the main character is a girl who pretends to be a boy, and she plays on the boys' soccer team.

Wheeler and Bathen are definitely not pretenders for Newport Harbor.

"They're both very fit and very athletic, and that's the kind of game I want our girls to play," Case said. "They're all over the net, they get to every ball and they know where each other is on the court at all times. They don't leave much open space for their opponents."

Wheeler and Bathen will continue to work hard. They've already helped Newport Harbor accomplish its first goal of the season, winning the Battle of the Bay over rival Corona del Mar. The last two goals are league and CIF titles. The Sailors haven't been challenged yet in league, where they're three-time defending champions.

"Kristen always tells us our matches are won in our practice," Bathen said. "Sometimes it feels like our practices are even harder than matches."

That's usually true for Wheeler and Bathen.

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Mindy Wheeler

Born: July 12, 1994

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-8

Sport: Tennis

Coach: Kristen Case

Favorite food: Fruit smoothies

Favorite movie: "She's the Man"

Favorite athletic moment: Sweeping three doubles sets with Megan Bathen in the CIF Southern Section Division II championship match last year against San Marino.

Week in review: Wheeler and Bathen went 8-0 as a doubles team as Newport Harbor defeated Sage Hill and Woodbridge in nonleague matches, then defeated Edison, 15-3, in the Sunset League opener on Sept. 29.

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Megan Bathen

Born: Jan. 25, 1995

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-5

Sport: Tennis

Coach: Kristen Case

Favorite food: Ruby's sandwiches

Favorite movie: "She's the Man"

Favorite athletic moment: Helping Newport Harbor beat Arcadia, 13-5, in the CIF Southern Section Division II semifinals last year with a big crowd watching at Newport Harbor.

Week in review: Bathen and Mindy Wheeler went 8-0 as a doubles team as Newport Harbor defeated Sage Hill and Woodbridge in nonleague matches, then defeated Edison, 15-3, in the Sunset League opener on Sept. 29.

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