Boys Tennis: East Ridge advances to section semifinals
East Ridge 6, Woodbury 1
There's nothing like a friendly rivalry to start a quarterfinals section match on Thursday.
The No. 3 seed East Ridge hosted the No. 6 seed Woodbury for a spot in the section semifinals and similar to the regular season, the Raptors finished the day with a strong 6-1 win.
"It's fun to see these two schools compete because many of these players have played tennis together throughout their childhood," said East Ridge head coach Brendan Fitzpatrick. "It's great to see the team continue into the semifinals, but each round will be tougher and tougher so we just need to be prepared."
East Ridge had success in every match except one due to some cramps the player was experiencing and Fitzpatrick thought it would be good to remove him from the match for precautionary reasons.
Other than that one match, the majority of the Raptors finished strong by controlling the match and not allowing momentum to shift in Woodbury's direction.
"We've become one big family throughout this season and it's been fun to watch it grow," said East Ridge No. 1 singles player Caleb Fridinger. "We've been working hard this season and we're excited to continue moving on as a team."
Eli Van der sman is really excited about the semifinals match because this is his senior year. He wasn't able to play on Thursday, but he's excited about coming back onto the court with his team on Monday and fighting against Eagan.
As for Woodbury, the Royals had a strong season with a mixture of younger and older players. Head coach Brandon Heath said he's been happy with how the veterans are helping the younger players with how to play and the traditions of Woodbury boys tennis.
Heath is happy with what the future holds for these Royals because he has a handful of really young talent that's already growing this season.
"It's been fun watching these players grow all season and continue to develop their skills each day," Heath said. "The fun part for a coach is to see each player get better each day whether it's practice or at a match."
Heath will bring back a one-two punch with his freshman No. 1 singles player Bogdan Vizoli and his eighth grader No. 2 singles player Dylan Pham. Both of these players are young and have many years ahead of them to continue to grow.
Now, the focus for the Royals has shifted to the individual section tournament where many of Woodbury's players will compete in singles and doubles for a chance to reach the state tournament.
East Ridge will continue to focus on the team section tournament as the Raptors head to Simley High School on Monday, May 20 at 3:30 p.m. to take on the No. 2 seed Eagan. In the other section semifinals, the No. 1 seed Eastview will play the No. 4 seed Hastings.
Eagan and East Ridge played against each other during the regular season and it ended in a 4-3 win for the Wildcats. The Raptors know they can play with this type of team, but the focus needs to be on allowing the fewest mistakes.
Fitzpatrick said the players just need to look at each match in a point by point mindset. The idea of getting the point in front of you is what the objective should be for each Raptor on Monday.
"It'll be a hard fought match on Monday between us and Eagan," Van der sman said. "All I know is that we're going to leave everything on the courts."
Woodbury 6, Highland 1
The No. 6 seed Woodbury team started the section tournament on Tuesday as the Royals hosted No. 11 seed Highland. It was a match that the Royals expected to win and it showed right away with dominating first-set wins.
That momentum rolled into the second set as Woodbury finished with a 6-1 victory and a spot in the quarterfinals on Thursday.
"Everyone stuck to their game plan and it showed with some great wins," said Woodbury head coach Brandon Heath. "We're excited to continue team sections and look forward to playing East Ridge."
In the No. 1 singles match, Bogdan Vizoli had to fight for his win in a different way. Vizoli started experiencing stomach aches and cramps in the middle of his match.
He wasn't able to play his top game in the opening round of section play, but he knew he couldn't give up. So Vizoli switched his game plan and took a different approach on how to play it, which translated into a win for him and a point for the Royals.
"You just stick to your strengths as a player," Vizoli said. "I was able to use my strengths and push through the stomach aches to earn a win."
Woodbury will head into the quarterfinals and will travel right up the road to East Ridge as the rivalry continues one last time this season. The Royals will play the No. 3 seed Raptors for a chance to reach the section semifinals next week.
East Ridge swept Woodbury 7-0 during the regular season and Heath understands the difficulty of playing the Raptors. He said that the players have learned from the regular season and he hopes it'll be strong tennis matches from both sides on Thursday.
East Ridge and Woodbury will square off at East Ridge on Thursday, May 16 at 3:30 p.m. and the winner will continue playing in the team sections on Monday next week.
"It's fun to play a team like East Ridge," said Amon Koul. "Hopefully we play our best tennis on Thursday."