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Boys' Tennis: van der Sman finishes career as Class 2A champion

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East Ridge’s Ben van der Sman accepts his medal as the Class 2A state singles champion on June 9 at the Baseline Tennis Center at the University of Minnesota. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
Ben van der Sman winds up for a forehand during the Class 2A championship match against Rochester Mayo’s Sebastian Vile. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

The pressure was immense for East Ridge's No. 1 ranked singles player Ben van der Sman in the Class 2A singles championship match at Baseline Tennis Center on the University of Minnesota campus.

The Raptors senior fell behind Rochester Mayo's Sebastian Vile 5-1 in a third set, best-of-seven tiebreaker to determine the match.

But van der Sman prevailed, winning the next six points to win the tiebreaker 7-5 and finish his senior season as an undefeated champion.

"I have no words really, it's indescribable," van der Sman said. "It was the most unbelievable experience of my life. Especially the way that I did it, coming back from 1-5 in a third-set tiebreaker was absolutely unbelievable."

van der Sman trailed 4-5 in the third set with Vile serving for the match. But van der Sman broke his serve and won the next game to go ahead 6-5, eventually forcing a tiebreaker.

All season, van der Sman had to face the pressure of being the top-ranked singles player in Class 2A. With the championship victory, he finally lived up to those expectations.

"To be down like that and also be the one seed in this tournament, it was tough to embrace the pressure," van der Sman said. "But I thought I dealt with it really well, and the results showed for it."

Vile jumped ahead early in the match, winning the first set 6-2. East Ridge head coach Suzie Heideman said she and assistant coach Jon Rydberg did their best to help the senior relax. He was able to do that, winning the second set 6-4.

"He was very tight the first set," Heideman said. "It's easier said than done, we just said, 'You've got to loosen up. And the way to do that is to move your feet more and hit out.'"

East Ridge's van der Sman wrapped up his senior season with an undefeated 33-0 record. Next year, he will start his college career with the men's tennis team at Washington University in St. Louis.

But he created one last memory on June 9 of going out as a state champion.

"Now that I've captured the title, it's going to be a little easier for me to sleep at night knowing that I'll never be a Raptor again," van der Sman said. "But somewhere deep down inside of me I will always be a Raptor, and I will have this to always remember who I am and what high school I represent."

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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