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East Ridge boys tennis: Raptors advance to Elite Eight of competition

The East Ridge boys tennis team did something it's never done before.

The Raptors advanced five players -- two doubles teams and one singles player -- to the Section 3AAA individual quarterfinals.

East Ridge junior singles player Zekeria Nigatu won both his matches in straight sets over Park and Rosemount in the first two rounds. Nigatu, the seventh seed, beat Park senior Charlie Link 6-1, 6-0 in the opener and Rosemount junior Sairam Sunkam 6-1, 6-2 in round two. He will now face the section's No. 2 seed, Burnsville junior Tom McCallie.

In doubles play, the East Ridge pairing of junior Greg Sharrow and eighth-grader Ben Van der Sman won both their matches in straight sets over Burnsville and St. Thomas Academy. They will now face the third-seeded team from Woodbury of Ben Sajevic and Matt Schubert in the quarterfinals.

The other East Ridge doubles team to advance was the duo of sophomore Vishaal Gupta and his younger brother, freshman Nikhil Gupta. The Gupta brothers won both their matches in three sets, taking down teams from St. Thomas Academy and Apple Valley. They will now face the No. 1-seeded team of Tim Larson and Matt McNutt from Bloomington Jefferson.

In addition, East Ridge sophomore singles player Riley Pratt played a tough match, but lost to Woodbury junior Joey Schubert 3-6, 3-6 in the opening round.

By reaching the quarterfinals, the Raptors players are in the final "Elite Eight" in their respective singles and doubles brackets. Top two teams in doubles and the top two singles players earn trips to the state tournament in June. The players hit the court again for the quarterfinals on Tuesday, May 28, at the Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville, after the Bulletin went to press.

"I was really proud of the way my guys played," East Ridge head coach Suzie Heideman said. "My hope is for them to keep giving it their all and see what happens. The sky is the limit."