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2014 Spring Preview: Sajevic, Shubert to lead Woodbury boys tennis team in 2014

Woodbury senior Ben Sajevic is one of a number of key returning players to the Royals tennis team this year. (Bulletin file photo)

A heavy complement of seniors and the momentum from a strong 2013 season has Michael Moran’s hopes high.

The Woodbury boys tennis coach said the team reminds him of the 2011 crew that finished one match away from the state tournament. This year’s “close-knit group,” he said, shares many of those strengths and could be poised to do some damage in 2014.

“They know that it’s their senior year,” Moran said. “They will leave everything out there.”

Woodbury will be led by senior captains Ben Sajevic, Joey Shubert and David Lundberg. Fellow seniors Andy Ailabouni and Nick Haugstad will serve as assistant captains.

Moran, who will be assisted by junior varsity coach Gary Bystedt, said no positions for singles and doubles have been established yet and will likely fluctuate as the season progresses.

He expects Shubert and Sajevic to both compete for the No. 1 singles position throughout the season, while Lundberg’s remarkable doubles play will likely team him up with another strong player at the top of Woodbury’s doubles lineup. Meanwhile, senior Michael Chu could be a force in singles or doubles, the second-year coach said.

If the team is to contend in the competitive Suburban East Conference this year, it will mean turning more doubles matches into victories than last year.

“If we can find a point or two in doubles – with our singles lineup – we can really do some damage,” Moran said.

Success will also hinge on mental focus, the importance of which the team learned last year, Moran said.

That, mixed with a healthy dose of confidence.

“It’s the one thing that great teams do well,” Moran said.

This year’s team must move on without 2013 graduate Matt Shubert, a player whose quiet, driven attitude led the team by example.

That will mean others stepping up this year. Moran said he expects Joey Shubert – Matt Shubert’s brother – and Sajevic to be “our big, strong leaders.”

Youngsters will also be part of the mix. Nine underclassmen will be competing for spots on the varsity roster. Moran named freshmen Hunter Holst and Akhil Miryala, and eighth graders Zach Haugstad and Corbin Johnson as possible up-and-comers.

Perennial favorite Mounds View should be among the SEC’s toughest foes, Moran said, adding East Ridge and White Bear Lake to his short list.

The team competes in Section 3AA, which no longer includes powerhouse Bloomington Jefferson.

“That opens the door for a lot of teams,” Moran said, “and I consider us being one of them.”

Woodbury opens play Thursday, April 3, against South St. Paul.

Weather permitting, Woodbury, East Ridge and Park will play host on Saturday to the SoWashCo Tournament, which will comprise all of the SEC teams. Matches will be played at all three schools.

—Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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