Raptors move past tough preseason
East Ridge girls tennis coach Jon Rydberg admitted this isn’t the team envisioned entering his sixth season at the helm.
The Raptors opened practice a little more than a week ago and lost one of its best players to a season-ending injury on just the second day of practice. That misfortune came only a few days after the team learned it would be losing two more players to postsecondary enrollment option classes as the schedules conflict with the tennis season.
“We lost a lot of talent and that’s really tough to replace on the fly,” Rydberg said. “That said I know all the girls are really, really excited to take on the challenge of playing up higher than they’re used to and kind of running with it. It’s kind of their team now with the turnover we’ve had over the last few months. It’s practically a new group this season.”
That new group looked up to the challenge at the Eagle Invite at Totino-Grace High School last week as it finished in second place out of seven teams. It garnered 23 team points and was only four points behind rival Woodbury for the overall team title.
Rydberg said while he was pleasantly surprised with the results, he knew his young team was capable of turning some heads early in the season.
“We have a ton of young players with a lot of experience,” he said. “Those players have to take that next step in their progression, but I know the girls are excited to take on the challenge. I haven’t heard anything other than that.”
East Ridge finished 7-7 last season and Rydberg said he was excited for the depth his team was slated to have this year. Those plans were put on hold with the loss of key players at the start of the season.
Rydberg said he isn’t ruling out the possibility of certain players stepping up this year and said he’ll look toward his two captains — Katelyn Champoux and Minh-Tu Van — to help the team reach that next level.
Though that could take awhile after the early season woes, it appears, at least after the first competition of the season, that the Raptors could be closer to reaching that level than it may seem on the surface.
“It’s not going to be easy this year,” Rydberg said. “We’ve already been put in a tough situation, but we’re all excited to get going and figure things out.”