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East Ridge’s Samuel Ruiz-Plaza makes a pass against Cretin-Derham Hall. The Raptors won 2-0 to remain undefeated and are currently ranked No. 1 in the state. (Staff photo by Nick Gerhardt)

East Ridge boys soccer: Raptors ranked No. 1

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East Ridge boys soccer: Raptors ranked No. 1
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East Ridge remained undefeated last week and was rewarded for its efforts.

The Raptors, 7-0 overall and 3-0 in the Suburban East Conference, moved up to No. 1 in the most recent Class AA state poll, now sharing the top spot with Edina (8-0-1).

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East Ridge broke out for seven goals Saturday in a 7-1 rout of South St. Paul in South St. Paul to remain undefeated. The Raptors, who entered the week ranked third in Class AA, got two goals from junior Connor Stevenson and one from Samuel Ruiz-Plaza in the first half to go up 3-1.

In the second half sophomore Keelan Spencer, senior defender Alec Tostenrud, junior Zach Boerjan and senior Danny Munter added goals for the 7-1 blowout.

The seven goals set a season-high for East Ridge, which had 16 goals for the season entering the game.

The only low spot for the Raptors came in allowing a goal for the first time in four games and just the second time this season.

Prior to the rout of South St. Paul (1-9), East Ridge adjusted on the fly in a 2-0 conference win over Cretin-Derham Hall.

East Ridge boys soccer head coach Anthony Bidwell realizes his team will have change its style of play from time to time this season in order to be successful, even if it’s not what he likes to see from the sideline.

The Raptors did just that as a smaller sized field forced East Ridge to change its style of play to a more direct approach, but it still led to a shutout victory on Thursday in St. Paul.

“We can change our style,” Bidwell said. “Unfortunately, that’s not what I want to see as a coach. I don’t think that’s progressing, but what I do see is that style of play we’re going to have to play from time to time.”

It looked like a blowout early when Boerjan scored 15 seconds into the game, but putting together an attack like East Ridge did Tuesday against White Bear Lake with multiple passes wasn’t possible with a narrow field against the Raiders.

Sophomore Jarrod Ronquillo added a goal in the 20th minute on a feed from junior midfielder Samuel Ruiz-Plaza, but that was it for the Raptors.

The game turned into a grueling, physical match with East Ridge drawing four yellow cards while having to challenge for balls through the air the majority of the game.

“You have to be a team that can play with adversity and you have to be able to be flexible and adaptable in the style of play,” Bidwell said. “I think that’s what we did.”

The Raptors had to bunker in on defense for stretches in the second half as Cretin-Derham Hall (2-5-1; 0-3 SEC) put together a run that had East Ridge defending in its own third for an extended period. Bidwell said he didn’t feel the Raiders were dangerous in their attack through that stretch, but it had an impact on the team.

The Raptors came back to form in the final 10 minutes of play and had several scoring chances, but failed to convert and had to settle for the 2-0 final.

Entering the fifth game of the season East Ridge junior Connor Stevenson hadn’t scored a goal and Tuesday against White Bear Lake at East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Stevenson looked determined to end that streak.

Stevenson did just that with a pair of goals in the first half as he carved up the Bears defense in a 3-0 victory for the third-ranked Raptors.

Stevenson scored at the eighth minute of the first half and added a goal in the 34th minute, but had several other opportunities throughout the game. Stevenson also hit a crossbar and put several dangerous shots on net in the rout.

Ruiz-Plaza added a goal in the 72 minute of the second half as he outraced the White Bear Lake defense for his first goal of the season.

East Ridge’s tactical approach differed dramatically than its last game against Park, a 2-0 victory, but the result remained the same as the Raptors picked up their fifth consecutive victory to open the season.

“I think they came out right away in the first half and understood that in terms of technical ability we have the added edge,” Bidwell said. “I also think they understood to possess and you did some of the possession with a purpose, moving it side-to-side, changing the point of attack, switching the fields. I think they played very solid in the attack.”

East Ridge built the attack by switching fields through the backline, which has allowed just one goal this season, and finding holes in the Bears’ defense.

The constant change of fields kept White Bear Lake (2-5-2; 0-3 SEC) chasing most of the evening and the Raptors controlled possession throughout the game with improved play through the midfield.

Getting Spencer back from a wrist injury has bolstered the midfield and East Ridge looked the most dangerous on the attack as it has all season.

“They’re trying to play the right way and you see that when they try to play the right way in the final third good things happen in the final third,” Bidwell said.

East Ridge took on Hastings (1-7; 0-3 SEC) on Tuesday, after the Bulletin went to print, but will get a tougher test when it faces Roseville (5-2-2; 3-0 SEC) Thursday in Roseville.

-Nick Gerhardt

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