In only his first season at West Bloomfield High, Dennis Royal is making his mark with the girls tennis program.
At press time, the Lakers were 9-2 overall and 2-1 in the Oakland Activities Association Red Division.
“I’m having a really good time with it,” Royal said. “I’ve worked with all of these girls before, so when they needed a coach, I decided I would do it.”
Royal had previously worked with the team as a private teacher at the Sports Club of West Bloomfield. He also has coaching experience with the Wayne State University men’s team, leading the program five years ago.
The coach said that his singles team and No. 1 doubles squad has been a strength.
At No. 1 singles, Raven Neely has only one loss.
“She’s just a very powerful player,” Royal said of the freshman. “She’s a big hitter and young. She can hit with the seniors, she’s very steady and getting smarter every match.”
Aerielle Pendleton (No. 2 singles) is undefeated at press time. Royal said she’s already signed to play for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“She’s just a brawler out there,” the coach said of his senior. “She’s a big hitter, fast and just takes care of business.”
Sara Cahn (No. 3 singles) and No. 4 singles Nikki Dean only have two losses each.
“(Cahn) is very consistent, very steady and a very crafty player,” Royal said. “(Dean) is as steady as a rock; she can hit balls all day long.”
Another strong pair, according to the coach, is the No. 1 doubles team of Gillian Meyers and Sammy Dean. They only have two blemishes on their record this season.
“Both of them played singles last year,” Royal said, as Sammy Dean was No. 1 and Meyers was No. 3. “They’ve just connected as a team and are playing extremely well.”
Royal added that the rest of the doubles squads are young and just need more experience.
Come the end of the season, Royal believes he has a handful of potential state champions.
“My goal is to get the team to states this year. They lost in the regional by one point last season,” he said. “It’s going to be interesting.”