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Heath enters first year with Royals

Woodbury players didn’t have much time to get acclimated to new coach Brandon Heath before the first competition of the season.

It turns out they didn’t really need it.

The Royals opened the season last week with a first-place finish at the Eagle Invite at Totino-Grace High School. That result came after barely a week of practice under Heath — a promising sign to say the least.

“It was good to see us get a win early in the season,” he said. “It showed that we’re on the right track even though we haven’t been together very long.”

Though he’s never tried his luck as a coach of a tennis program, Heath isn’t walking into his new role completely cold. He’s taught tennis lessons for the last 15 years and has even gotten a chance to work with some of the current Woodbury players in that span.

“That’s definitely an advantage for us heading into this season,” Heath said. “There’s still a lot to learn, but it’s a good group of girls and that’s something that’s made my transition a lot easier. … There’s just a lot of excitement around the program and we have a lot of potential on this roster.”

And potential is a key word for the Royals this year as the team is comprised of a lot of underclassmen.

Woodbury finished a modest 7-7 last season and lost a number of players from that team to graduation. Its led by its youth this season — youth that proved effective at the Eagle Invite as underclassmen played a pivotal role in first-place finishes at No. 2 singles, No. 1 doubles, and No. 3 doubles.

“It’s tough anytime a team loses that much leadership,” Heath said, “but we have a lot of young talent. I know the players are all excited to pick up where they left off last season and continue to grow the program.”

Royals captains Claire Proesch and Brooke Hays have also helped lessen the blow of losing so many seniors, Heath said, and he’s leaned on those two players a lot early in the season.

“I’m still new to this so that helps a lot,” he said. “I’m just excited to get into the bulk of the season. We have a lot of talent and it should be a really fun year.”

Heath has reason to be excited for this season after the performance at the Eagle Invite last week. That said he’s focused on making sure his players stay hungry for the rest of the season.

“If we’re always focused on getting better,” Heath said, “the results and everything else will kind of take care of itself.”