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Unexpected success: Raptors take second at season-opening invite

As he enters his sixth season as the leader of the tennis program, East Ridge coach Jon Rydberg is tasked with what some would call a rebuilding project.

His team lost a handful of players from last year’s squad to graduation, another key player to a season-ending injury on just the second day of practice last week and a couple more players to postsecondary enrollment option classes because the schedules conflict with the tennis season.

Those things considered along with the minimal time the team has had to jell, after the first weekend of the season, East Ridge looks to be better off than many would have expected.

The Raptors opened the season with a second-place finish out of seven other teams at the Eagle Invite on Aug. 16 at Totino-Grace High School. They were only a few points behind Woodbury for the team title and overall there were a lot of positives to take away from the weekend of competition.

“We actually had better results than I was expecting so early in the season,” Rydberg said. “I wasn’t going to hold the girls to huge expectations in the first competition of the season with almost everyone playing in a brand new position, so I was pleasantly surprised with the results.”

Sahana Iyer earned the lone singles title for the Raptors with a first place finish at No. 4 singles. Regan Dolezal was the runner up at No. 1 singles for East Ridge and the doubles pairing of Katelyn Champoux and Allison Marshall took home the No. 2 doubles title. There were other positive results across the lineup from the weekend and Rydberg noted that each of his players improved from match to match.

“That’s all I can ask for right now,” he said. “We’re all kind of learning so it’s nice to have tournaments like this early in the season so players get a taste of competition in a setting that doesn’t necessarily have a huge impact on the rest of the season. It’s almost like a warm up for us as we head into the bulk of our season.”

East Ridge started practice last week and Rydberg said it was a quick turnaround for the team as players are still adjusting to playing in higher positions than they did last season. He added that if the first competition of the year was any indication, his team should be in a good place come the end of the season.

“I was proud of the girls with the way they battled all weekend,” Rydberg said. “We know we’re a really young team so it’s kind of nice that we’re not pegged to a certain place in the standings this year. There isn’t a ton of outside pressure, so it’s all up to the players to work hard and make the most out of this season.”