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2016 preview: East Ridge girls tennis returners ready to roll

Megan Karrow hits a forehand shot against an opponent last season. (Bulletin file photo by Dane Mizutani)

The overall expectations rarely change for Raptors girls tennis coach Jon Rydberg heading into each new season. He wants his team to compete at a high level, knowing the rest will take care of itself as the matches play out.

It’s the same story this season, though with the crop of returning talent, the potential of the team is higher than it has been in past seasons.

Aside from losing two key players -- Min-Tu Van and Sophie Stark -- to graduation, East Ridge brings back most of its varsity roster from last season.

“They were two rocks on the team,” Rydberg said of Van and Stark. “While it’s tough to replace players like that, someone always seems to step up.

Regan Dolezal and Megan Karrow are the two players leading that charge for the Raptors this season.

“We want to created a close-knit team,” Dolezal said. “That’s priority No. 1 for us right now. We will focus on the other things later.”

With players like Dolezal and Karrow, among the other returners, the lineup shouldn’t be too hard for coaches to put together.

“We have a high percentage of players where we know exactly where they fit in,” he said. “Some players have improved in the offseason, too, so we’ll have matches within the team to see where our lineup stands.”

“We are only taking 12 players on varsity this season,” Rydberg added. “It’s cut a little bit in that sense. It’s better to get players more time on the court. It is going to be pretty tough to get down to those 12 players.”

East Ridge already started its season with matches on Monday and Tuesday.

“I know everyone is ready to go,” she said. “We bonded over the summer and now everyone is pumped for the season to start.”

Rydberg will miss a chunk of the season as he travels to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Paralympic Games. Still, he seems confident heading into this season.

“It’s nice to be a team again,” he said. “We set goals for ourselves and we’ve been pretty good at accomplishing those goals in the past. We feel good about where we’re at right now.”