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Boys' Tennis: Raptors are headed back to state

The East Ridge boys’ tennis team celebrates a Class 2A, Section 3 team title at Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville on May 24. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia

The East Ridge boys' tennis team is headed back to the Class 2A state tournament for the fourth straight season.

The Raptors wrapped up their fourth consecutive Class 2A, Section 3 team title with a 6-1 win against Hastings on May 24 at Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville. East Ridge swept all four singles matchups and added wins at first and third doubles.

Although the Raptors started the season with a 6-1 win against Hastings on April 5 and did so again in the section championship, they had to work to stay ahead of the Raiders.

"They're a deep team," top singles player Ben van der Sman said. "They have some good players at deep spots. That's important coming into these kind of matches. You need depth. You can't just have one or two guys who stand out."

The top three East Ridge singles players lost just a combined three games for East Ridge as they won in two sets. The first doubles team of Evan Fridinger and Nitin Venkatesh won 6-2, 6-0. But Hastings pushed matches at fourth singles, second doubles and third doubles to three sets, including its lone win at second doubles.

Seventh-grader Luke Fridinger survived a 6-1 first set by Hastings' Grant Hollar and came back to win the second set 6-3 before winning a third set super-tiebreaker 10-6.

Head coach Suzie Heideman was happy with his effort in a pressure-packed match.

"As a seventh grader in his first section final, I was really proud of how he kept it together," Heideman said. "I told him, 'This kid is playing unbelievable tennis. You're going to have to ride the wave.'"

The No. 3 doubles team of Hootie Lawrence and Deven Pillai also fought through a three-set win. After winning the first set 6-2, the Hastings team of Reese Estrabrook and Eric Howd won the second set 6-2 before the East Ridge squad won in the third set super tiebreaker.

"They really felt like one of their opponents did not play well in the first set but played on fire in the second set," Heideman said.

East Ridge is headed to the team state tournament for the fourth consecutive season. Last year, the Raptors finished third among Class 2A teams.

This year East Ridge is headed into the state tournament with likely its most experienced team in the past four seasons. As the second-ranked Class 2A team in the state heading into the tournament, their goal is to win a title.

"Since freshman year that's been the goal, to win the state championship," said Elias Ramirez, a junior. "It would be great to win it with the teammates we have now. We have a strong team, we've just got to be confident and go out there and do what we need to do."

Many seniors have three or more seasons of varsity experience. Top-ranked singles player van der Sman has been playing varsity tennis since his seventh-grade season. Cormac Dolezal and Evan Fridinger have been playing varsity since their eighth-grade years, Venkatesh since he was a freshman and Lawrence and Pillai since they were sophomores.

"They've all been on the team for a number of years and have seen it play out," Heideman said. "They know what to expect, but you still get those match jitters every time you go out."

The individual section tournament will begin May 25 at Lifetime Fitness in Lakeville. The team state tournament will be held starting June 6 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota.

*Note: This article corrects the third doubles pairing of Hootie Lawrence and Deven Pillai. A previous version included Evan Fridinger in this pair.