Second Heinonen to star at SDC

HOUGHTON – On one end of Michigan Tech’s Student Development Complex, a Heinonen whose job, among other things, is to score.

Soon to be on the other end, a Heinonen whose job, among other things, is to keep opponents from scoring.

Tyler Heinonen just completed his freshman season as a forward with the Husky hockey team, while defensive specialist Elle, his sister, will start hers with Tech volleyball in August.

“He has always said good things. He enjoys being a Husky,” Elle said. “I’m excited to continue my career because I’m not ready to be done.”

Heinonen’s father is a Tech alum and she has other relatives in the area.

Coach Matt Jennings said though Heinonen has attended summer camps at the SDC in previous years, it was hard to get a fix on where she fit in until seeing her play for her club team (Kokoro VC), at which point it took about a match for him to be sold, he said.

“It’s not to say we didn’t work hard to get her, because we did, she had options, but she’s wanted to come to Tech for a long time. That just adds to what she brings to the table, that conviction.”

Heinonen, from Delano, Minn., is on the other end of the country this week competing in the AAU Nationals in Orlando. Current club and future Tech teammate Stephanie Dietrich is with her and Heinonen said she’s having someone with which to compare notes.

She reported the Twin Cities-based club is doing well at the tournament.

“We might as well go out with a bang in our last time down here,” she said.

It is the last of multiple trips to the nationals for Heinonen, who has also been successful at the high school level.

Being a part of winning programs doesn’t make a player Husky material by herself, but can be a bonus.

“It’s not the predominant factor, but it’s a validation of skill sets that maybe you see,” Jennings said.

Heinonen’s Delano team reached the championship match of the Minnesota State High School League finals in Class AAA before dropping a five-set thriller to Eagan. She had 16 digs in the title match at the XCel Energy Center in St. Paul, but still calls the experience, and the way the community rallied around the team in its run for the title, the highlight of her volleyball career to this point.

“I was so driven to be in the state championship game. It was disappointing to lose. It was sad, but looking back it was one of the greatest moments of my life,” she said.

Her experience is similar to soon-to-be back-row partner Halie Hart, whose team reached the state title match in Wisconsin.

“On a team, for the libero to be the court leader is a difficult task. It’s a thankless position in many ways and I think her and Halie both are going to play a huge role in our system from day one,” Jennings said.

Heinonen expressed an interest in studying business at Michigan Tech and is looking to contribute to the Huskies with a temperment that is both fiery and fun.

“I hope to contribute a positive attitude and be a strong team player. A lot of competitiveness along with a ton of fun,” she said.