Patriots bring in new tennis coachAugust 7, 2020
By JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — The Heritage Hills boys tennis team is experiencing a change at the top for the upcoming season.
Fresh face Derek Prior will replace former coach Phil Burden this fall, and while it’s his first season coaching tennis, he’s excited to lend his experience coaching other sports to help out the Patriots tennis program. The Pats came within a gnat’s hair of a Pocket Athletic Conference title against North Posey before getting swept by Castle in last year’s sectional.
“I got hired to teach this upcoming school year, and they had a varsity tennis opening,” he said. “I’ve coached all kinds of sports for many years. They needed somebody and I offered to help out.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a crunch on getting to know all the players, but Prior has already taken a liking to the work ethic he’s seen from the players who have come out to open courts this summer.
“It seems like we got a great group of boys,” he said. “They’re willing to work hard and try to get better every day.”
No. 1 singles player Josh Dellamuth leads the pack of returning Patriots players. The senior was described as “very methodical” by assistant coach Corey Mauck, and exercises patience to play at a consistent pace. He keeps his composure on the court, and will use as many swings as he must to win his point. Seniors Jacob Smith (No. 2 doubles) and Josh Smith (No. 3 singles) will also take up their racquets again for the Patriots. No. 1 doubles player Kayden Bell has been working hard at open courts and has put on some height in the offseason, so the coaches are intrigued to see how that will affect the sophomore’s game.
“He’s grown a couple inches, so it’ll be exciting to see how that will change his play,” said Mauck. “Kayden’s been at all of our open courts and looks to be improved.”
Sophomore Kevin Dilger looks like he’s ready to challenge for varsity time. He’s been putting in time in the offseason to improve his swing and has been demonstrating more aggressive play this summer. The Patriots will also be welcoming a former player back to the fold in junior Kyle Eubank. Eubank played tennis as a freshman, but took his sophomore season off. He’s been back at open courts and doesn’t seem to carry any rust in his racquet.
“I’ve been very impressed with his work at the net,” Mauck said.
Improving serves is the major focus point for the Patriots this season. Limiting mistakes is a big part of charting a path to success, and the Patriots don’t want errant serving to lead to easy points or momentum for their opponents.
“The biggest thing is limiting your own mistakes,” Prior said. “Keeping the ball in play and playing to your strength is important.”
“It’s so easy to lose points off bad serves,” Mauck added. “I want to see every serve go in.”
The Patriots open their season against South Spencer on Aug. 20 on their home court, and they’re shooting for the stars with their goals and aspirations. Health and safety are paramount while playing under the cloud of a pandemic, but if there are no major setbacks, the Patriots intend to keep getting stronger as they march towards PAC and sectional titles.
“It would be good to get a competitive team to get back in there and win a sectional title,” Prior said.
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