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East Ridge girls tennis: State tourney an 'eye-opener,' says coach

The East Ridge doubles team of Taylor Anderson, left, and Natalie Robinson - the first Raptors tennis players in history to reach the State Tournament - went 0-2 in their first appearance at State.

East Ridge's doubles team of Taylor Anderson and Natalie Robinson got a rude introduction to the State Tennis tournament last week.

Anderson, a junior, and Robinson, a freshman - the first Raptors tennis players in history to reach the State Tournament - went 0-2 in their first appearance at State.

"I know they were expecting some tough competition, but I'm not sure they were aware how tough. It was a good stepping stone," East Ridge head coach Jon Rydberg said. "They've never been (to State) before and didn't know what to expect, so this was definitely an eye-opener for them. We're a good team, but there's always room for improvement - no matter who you are."

Anderson and Robinson, East Ridge's No. 1 doubles team this season, were unbeaten in the Suburban East Conference this season. However, the Raptors' duo fell in straight sets in their State Tournament opener, then had their season ended in straight sets in the consolation round.

"They were disappointed," Rydberg said. "They wanted to win some matches. I don't think they expected to win it all, but they just wanted to play well. I don't think they felt like they played as well as they could have. It was the first time they were there and everything was new. Next year, if we get back there again, they'll be prepared for it."

In the State doubles competition, Anderson and Robinson began their tournament with a match against a pair of seniors from Centennial - Kelly Jachymowski and Courtney Klair. The two teams faced off on Thursday, Oct. 25, at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

Jachymowski and Klair defeated Anderson and Robinson 6-4, 6-1.

The loss sent the Raptors' pair into a match with Minnetonka's duo of senior Bri Smith, who was ranked No. 11 as an individual in this year's final poll, and Skippers' ninth-grader Theresa Tebon. Smith and Tebon downed Anderson and Robinson 6-1, 6-1.

"They could've played better. Obviously, a lot of it was the competition," Rydberg said. "Those are the some of the best players in the state and they're very, very good. Taylor is only a junior and Natalie is only a freshman. They went up against some older opponents. They were very experienced and were good at what they do. They were there for a reason."

In the State doubles competition, the Rochester Century sibling duo of junior Katherine Aney and ninth-grader Jessica Aney beat a pair of Edina siblings - senior Morgan Marinovich and sophomore Mackenzi Marinovich in the championship.

Rydberg said, despite the sudden end, it was a highly successful season - for Anderson and Robinson and the entire Raptors team.

"They definitely had a fun season," Rydberg said. "Winning breeds fun and It was a really, really good year. It was the best season we've had as a team and as individual players and except for three seniors we're all coming back next year. We expect bigger and better things next year."

Anderson has been playing varsity tennis for East Ridge since she was in eighth grade - the first year the new school opened in Woodbury. She's been playing doubles the majority of the time over the last four years. She and 2011 graduate Emily Mueller were the Raptors' No. 1 doubles pairing a year ago. Robinson, who has played tennis since she was 4 years old, made East Ridge's varsity team as a seventh grader and completed her third season with the Raptors this fall. Last year, Robinson played singles for East Ridge. The Raptors' tandem reached the 2012 State Tournament after finishing second in the Section 4AA tournament.

Rydberg said he won't know if the two will team up again next season until the time comes.

"They obviously play well together," he said. "It all depends if other players step up, work hard in the offseason and get up to that level. We'll put together the best doubles team we can. Obviously, right now, you'd lean toward keeping them together, but you never know until next year."