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2013 Spring Preview: Moran no newbie with Woodbury boys tennis team

Former assistant Michael Moran, a Cottage Grove native and Park High graduate, is the new varsity tennis coach this year at Woodbury High School. He leads a team that brings back eight varsity players from 2012.1 / 2
Juniors Ben Sajevic (foreground) and Joey Shubert (background) are two of the three captains of this year's WHS boys tennis team.2 / 2

First-year head coach Michael Moran has taken the reins for the Woodbury High School varsity tennis program.

But you'd be mistaken if you thought it's his first rodeo.

The truth is, Moran has closely coached the majority of the players on this year's team all the way since they were eighth- or ninth-graders. He came to the program as coach of Woodbury's C Squad team for two years before assuming the title of junior varsity coach last season.

His rise through the ranks at Woodbury - he previously worked as head coach of the Richfield High School girls team - means this will be his fourth year coaching members of the Class of 2014, many of whom now populate this year's varsity team.

"I've been with them on this journey," Moran, a 2002 Park High School graduate, said.

He takes over the program from Derek Otto, who left the head coaching job to concentrate more on his job at the YMCA.

Moran brings deep experience in tennis, having earned all-conference honors as a Park tennis player, and bringing a coaching resume that began when he was 16 years old.

He was tapped to coach youngsters in Cottage Grove's Parks and Recreation - "pretty low-stakes tennis instruction," Moran said of the experience - though it planted the coaching seed.

After returning to the south Washington County community following his stint at Richfield, Moran went to work coaching through District 833 Community Education, where he founded the Royals Summer Tennis Program. The idea there, Moran said, was to keep high school players active in the sport throughout the summer, where individual clinics could foster growth.

"I feel like I've been part of the development here," he said.

The experience has become rewarding, "knowing how some of the boys are clicking now," he added.

Moran, a second-year English teacher at WHS, will also coach the girls' varsity tennis team in the fall. He is assisted on the boys team by JV coach Jon Aguirre and C Squad coach Gary Bystedt.

Though many of the players' faces are the same for Moran, the job is not - and he welcomes the challenge.

"Varsity is another level up," he said. "The guys definitely realize that they want to be pushed."

And though he has a built-in rapport with the players, he knows they have their own questions.

"What is he going to do now that he's here at the varsity level?" Moran said.

For him, that means minor tweaks to his coaching approach, which at times will mean being more aggressive, he said. But keeping the focus on fun and development will be his priority. To drive home that point, he's been using tennis great Arthur Ashe's quote, "Success is a journey, not a destination," as the motto for this year.

"Oftentimes, the doing is more important that the outcome," Moran said, completing the now-famous Ashe line.

Right now, constant improvement is the name of the game.

"I want all my players to get better every single day," he said.

Moran said that means that while the overall goal will be to reach the state tournament, the lingering message needs to ask, "What can we do today to get better?"

For now, he's encouraged by the varsity team he's fielding in 2013.

Returning players include senior Matt Shubert and junior Michael Chu, Darsh Desai, David Lundberg, Ben Sajevic and Joey Shubert.

"The strongest part of our line-up is our line-up," Moran said. "From top to bottom, we will be solid. We have a team of interchangeable parts."

The team, which returns eight players from 2012, will be captained by Matt Shubert, Joey Shubert and Sajevic, all of whom Moran said are poised for a strong season.

He expects Matt Shubert, last year's No. 1 singles player, to retain his post, while the other players could bounce between singles and doubles play.

"We don't coach singles players. We don't coach doubles players," Moran said. "We coach tennis players."

Matt Shubert enjoyed a deep run at last year's Section 3AA singles tournament. Moran said he witnessed significant growth from the then-junior during the 2012 tournament.

"He was playing his smartest tennis and his best tennis," Moran said.

His brother, Joey Shubert, emerged as a top singles player for the Royals after beginning the season at No. 1 doubles with 2012 graduate Jordon Stevens.

"It ended up strengthening our line-up, too," Moran said.

Though many of his players have varsity experience as underclassmen, they will need to harness it to be successful this season, the coach said.

"Confidence has to grow," he said.

Moran said that's an achievable goal. He said he's been hearing chatter from the players reminding one another that they're good.

Still, he said he gives them a nudge himself.

"You guys know how great you can be," Moran said.

The team opens play Saturday, April 6, at the Royal-Raptor Invite. Play at the meet, comprising eight teams, will be split between East Ridge and Woodbury courts.