2012 Spring preview: Woodbury tennis team turns to youth movementWith eight strong seniors poised to graduate last year, the Woodbury High School tennis coach put his younger players on notice: they would have to step up their games during the offseason in order to compete at the varsity level in 2012.
By: Mike Longaecker, Editor, Woodbury Bulletin
Derek Otto knew it was coming.
With eight strong seniors poised to graduate last year, the Woodbury High School tennis coach put his younger players on notice: they would have to step up their games during the offseason in order to compete at the varsity level in 2012.
Otto said there is evidence they listened.
“I’m really excited about the team we’ve got coming this year,” he said. “They’ve been putting in a lot of time to develop for this opportunity. They knew this was coming.”
Last year’s abundance of seniors gives way this year to a youth movement on the Woodbury tennis courts.
Gone are 2011 graduates Dennis Zhou, Jake Sajevic, Jason Lu, Ben Wortmann, Alex Haugstad, John Rebholz, Ian Groth and Zach Moore.
“It was definitely a special group that left us last year,” said Royals tennis coach Derek Otto, talking about the team that advanced to the Section 3AA finals, where it lost by one match to top-seeded Eastview.
Returning players with varsity experience are players Matt Shubert, Ben Sajevic and Joey Shubert. Matt Shubert will co-captain the team along with Jordon Stevens, who makes the leap this year from JV to varsity.
The Royals open the season April 10 against Harding High School – like Woodbury, a section finalist last year.
“They’ve been a strong team consistently for years,” Otto said.
He anticipated that the bulk of the schedule – against Suburban East Conference competition – will be similarly challenging.
“It’s always tough,” he said of SEC competition, where Mounds View and Forest Lake look to stand out.
Otto predicted Stillwater, Cretin-Derham Hall and Roseville will also being among the tougher teams in the conference.
The Royals begin SEC play April 12 against Hastings before playing Forest Lake April 17.
“They will certainly be a test for us,” Otto said of the Rangers.
Mixed among those matched will be an April 14 home invitational, where Woodbury plays host to a diverse field from around Minnesota: Duluth East, St. Cloud Tech, Red Wing, Rosemount, Bloomington Jefferson, Chaska and East Ridge.
“I figure they’ll all be good competition,” Otto said.
He said Matt Shubert will likely play singles this year for the Royals after playing No. 1 doubles last year.
“Now he’s well-rounded,” Otto said. “Doubles really forced him to refine his ball placement and his serve-and-volleys.”
Sajevic, Otto said, “looks like a different player this year.
“And that’s saying a lot because he was not a bad player for us last year.”
Otto called Joey Shubert a player with a very smart tennis mind. Whereas some players opt for the power game, he “uses more brainpower and finesse.”
“(Joey Shubert) probably plays as smart or smarter than anyone on our team,” Otto said.
Stevens makes a jump up this year from the JV program. Otto said the co-captain has taken it upon himself to become “a significant varsity contributor.”
“He’s come an awful long way,” the coach said.