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2014 Spring Preview: East Ridge boys tennis team should be one to watch

The East Ridge boys tennis team is expected to be one to watch this year.

The Raptors return their entire lineup from last year’s squad, which went 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the Suburban East Conference, finishing in second place behind Mounds View.

“With no graduates from last year the team’s confidence is up, but it also means the pressure is greater,” said Suzie Heideman, who is in her third year as head coach of the East Ridge boys.

Last season, East Ridge defeated Simley in the first round of the Section 3AA team tournament with a 5-2 score. However, the Raptors fell 6-1 to Burnsville in their next match to end the team portion of the season. The Raptors’ lone win came from its No. 1 doubles team of Greg Sharrow and Riley Pratt.

Individually, East Ridge advanced five players — two doubles teams and one singles player —to the Section 3AAA individual quarterfinals. However, none advanced to the state tournament.

“I’m looking for each player to embrace the mentality to always do what is best for the team and to put the team before their individual preferences,” Heideman said. “I’m hopeful that players will push each other to be stronger each day. We can have a great season if this happens.”

East Ridge’s captains this season will be Sharrow, a senior, Zekeria Nigatu, a senior, and Vishaal Gupta, a junior.

Joining the team as an assistant coach will be Jon Rydberg, the head coach of the East Ridge girls, along with fellow assistant Brendan Fitzpatrick. Rydberg fills a hole left by Doug Matuska, who left after being promoted as the tennis director at Bloomington South Lifetime Fitness.

“I’m really excited to work with Jon and Brendan,” Heidman said. “I’m super excited to have more cohesion with the girls and boys tennis programs at East Ridge and Jon’s experience as a player and coach will be invaluable.”

East Ridge is expected to be one of the teams to beat in the conference and section this season. Other top teams in the conference are expected to be Mounds View, which hasn’t lost an SEC match since 2000, and rival Woodbury. In the section, the top competition will likely include: St. Thomas Academy, Burnsville, Eastview and Shakopee, which is new to the section.

Weather permitting, East Ridge hopes to start the season with a match at Irondale on April 2. The team is set to compete in the SoWashCo Invite on Saturday, April 5, at Woodbury High School. The Raptors’ first home match is scheduled for April 9, against St. Thomas. The team then begins conference play at Park on April 10.

“We have a stronger schedule this year,” Heidman said. “We’re trying to play more sectional opponents in the regular season to see how we match up. We’re hopeful that the weather will be more cooperative than last season.”

—Patrick Johnson

Patrick Johnson
Patrick Johnson has been the South Washington County Bulletin’s sports editor since 2008. He reports on and oversees coverage of high school and amateur sports in south Washington County and Woodbury. Prior to joining the Bulletin, Johnson worked for other Twin Cities suburban newspapers. He is a University of Minnesota graduate.
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