Raptors tame Royals in sectionalsEast Ridge volleyball defeats Woodbury for the first time in Section 4AA Tournament, advances to title game versus Hill-Murray.
By: Patrick Johnson, Woodbury Bulletin
The East Ridge volleyball team finally beat cross-town rival Woodbury — and they did it when it mattered the most.
After falling to their intra-district foe in the two teams’ first head-to-head contests over the past two seasons, the Raptors easily handled Woodbury in the Section 4AAA semifinals on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at Stillwater High School — advancing to the section final and ending the Royals’ season.
“We knew it was going to be an emotional match,” East Ridge first-year head coach Lindsay Ashburn said. “Obviously we’re always going to have a great rivalry. Whoever we matched up with we knew we’d give them our best shot, but it’s always fun to play your cross-town rival in sections.”
The playoff bout was not nearly as close as the two District 833 teams’ last meeting, back on Sept. 21, when Woodbury (19-10) pulled off a 3-2 win.
In the post-season contest, after splitting the first two games 1-1, third-seeded East Ridge outscored second-seeded Woodbury 50-36 in the final two games to earn the 3-1 win.
“We’ve really changed and evolved as a team since the last match,” Ashburn said. “We’ve really evolved defensively. We really weren’t digging as many balls as we needed to. Defensive is the key to our game right now. We’re definitely clicking more defensively now.”
In the match, a 29-18 run by East Ridge (19-7) helped the Raptors earn a win in the third game and take a 23-15 lead in the fourth — and final — game.
After winning the first game 25-19, losing the second game, 25-21 and going up 19-15 in the third game, East Ridge won five-straight points to take a 24-15 lead and held on for a 25-18 win to go ahead 2-1. The Raptors carried that momentum into the final game, storming out to a 20-11 lead, before tightening the noose on the Royals.
“We talk a lot about carrying that momentum — that’s very important for us to do,” Ashburn said. “When we do that we’re very successful and when we don’t we struggle. But, we absolutely worked hard to gain momentum and hang on to it.”
As they have for the greater part of the season, East Ridge senior outside hitters Felicia Ulrich and Dale Hoeffel and senior setter Kristen Jorgensen led the way for the Raptors in the section semifinal.
Ulrich had a team-high 26 kills, 24 kills and two blocks and Hoeffel had 22 kills, 14 digs, a block and an ace, while Jorgensen had a team-best 44 assists.
Additionally, junior libero Brandi Knupp and senior defensive stopper also starred, especially on defense. Knupp had 25 digs and Yurick had 18 digs.
Individual results for Woodbury were not yet available.
With the win, East Ridge advanced to the Section 4AAA championship on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Hastings High School.
In the title game, the Raptors will face fifth-seeded Hill-Murray, which pulled off a surprising 3-0 upset over top-seeded and defending Section 4AAA champion Stillwater on Wednesday.
Out of the Classic Suburban Conference, the Pioneers amassed a 26-4 record on the year, including wins over South St. Paul and Cretin-Derham Hall in the playoffs.
East Ridge, meanwhile, is 9-3 in its last 12 matches, including best-of-three wins over a pair of top-10 Class AAA teams, Lakeville South and Shakopee.
“We’re definitely peaking right now,” Ashburn said. “It’s nice to see the girls stepping up late in the season. I knew there would be a little transition with them adjusting to me as a new coach early on. But, now we’re really flowing, so that’s nice.”
Ashburn is 4-for-4 in her section final appearances, as she brought St. Cloud Cathedral to the Class AA state tournament in each of her four seasons with the team.
“This was a huge win for us,” Ashburn said. “But, the section final is what we’ve been working for all season long. I think they’re ready.”