Practices are just a little bit easier when you have an experienced tennis team.
With eight seniors listed on the varsity roster, this is one of the advantages the East Ridge girls' tennis team has this season.
East Ridge head coach Jon Rydberg said practices have been smooth with the influx of seniors on one of the Suburban East Conference's most experienced teams. With most of the Raptors being varsity veterans, the team has been able to focus on more advanced drills than in other years.
"And just peace of mind having so many seniors knowing they will take it seriously, it is their last year," Rydberg said. "I can count on them to almost help micromanage the practice when needed. When they have to go off on a court on their own, I trust them that they will be focused and doing what they are supposed to do."
The East Ridge girls' tennis team is 3-0 in SEC matches this season. The record includes two close 4-3 wins against Woodbury and Stillwater from the past week.
Among the individual wins counted at Woodbury was the doubles team of seniors Regan Dolezal and Julia Travis who turned in a 6-0, 6-0 victory.
Though they do not play every match together in the doubles lineup, the team of Dolezal and Travis competed in the Class 2A, Section 3 individual tennis tournament in the doubles bracket last year.
They have noticed how strong the bond is with the team of players who know each other.
"I think all the seniors stick together," Travis said. "We're pretty close."
"We have a pretty good dynamic as a group right now," added Dolezal.
Two of those seniors, Dolezal and Megan Karrow, have played on the varsity team since seventh grade. Some of this year's seniors are also playing on the varsity for the first time.
A few of the Raptors have also recruited other players to the team, helping to build the program. This has helped East Ridge contend for the top three spots in the SEC over the past few years.
"I think the program and the mentality of it, like friends telling friends to play tennis," Dolezal said about the team's success. "Once they're in, it's just the motivation to improve and keep playing."
Wins against Woodbury, Stillwater
East Ridge's two SEC dual victories last week each came down to the final match where a win was needed to close out a victory.
The Raptors' win at Woodbury, which started Tuesday, Sept. 5, was halted due to rain with Molly Kammann leading 5-2 in the third set of her match at fourth singles. With both teams having won three matches, the set's final games were played Sept. 6 to determine which team could count the win.
Kammann pulled out the victory the next day, winning the set 7-5.
On Thursday, Karrow ended up winning 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 at second doubles in the final match to conclude a 4-3 win against Stillwater.