Sweet consolation for Raptors spikers at state tourneyWhen East Ridge head coach Lindsay Ashburn commented on her volleyball team's senior players, the usually stoic head coach’s eyes welled.
By: Patrick Johnson, Bulletin sports editor, Woodbury Bulletin
When East Ridge head coach Lindsay Ashburn commented on her volleyball team's senior players, the usually stoic head coach’s eyes welled.
It was those eight seniors whose leadership helped the East Ridge volleyball team win two state tournament games and claim the Class AAA state consolation championship with a 3-1 win over Andover on Saturday, Nov. 13, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
With the win, the Raptors became the school’s first team to place at a state tournament.
Ashburn said when she took over the team last summer, she believed the girls could compete for a state title.
“These girls had that goal from day one and believed in it,” Ashburn said. “I had no doubt.”
At its first-ever state tournament, Section 4AAA champion East Ridge — in only its second year together — fell to top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Lakeville North in the first round, but rebounded with a 3-2 win over Rochester Mayo in the consolation round semifinals and a 3-1 win over Andover in the fifth-place game.
“It’s kind of crazy,” East Ridge senior co-captain Dale Hoeffel said. “The way they seed it is all goofy, but it proves that no matter who you are matched up against you can still fight for something and come out on top.”
Ashburn: “We came in to the tournament knowing that we were going to compete with every opponent that we came across — even Lakeville North. Not every team gets to end their season on a win, so we are really happy about that.”
In the consolation championship, East Ridge (22-8) defeated Section 7AAA champion Andover 25-22 in the fourth, and final, game after winning the first game 25-23 and the second game 25-22, but falling 25-19 in the third game.
The closely contested first game win got East Ridge off on the right foot and tipped the balance early. Tied 23-23, East Ridge won the last two points — on kills by East Ridge senior outside hitters Felicia Ulrich and Dale Hoeffel, respectively — to give the Raptors the match. After splitting the next two games, East Ridge won the last game with a 5-2 run, breaking a 20-20 tie with the Huskies (18-14).
“Not every team gets to play on Saturday,” Ashburn said. “We made it to Saturday, played hard and won today. It feels great.”
Ulrich, who was the Raptors’ only player to make it to state previously when she went to state with Woodbury as a freshman, said she was happy about the team’s appearance at state.
“For the rest of the team, it was their first time,” said Ulrich, a co-captain. “It was really exciting that we were able to come here. We’re probably the only team where pretty much everyone hasn’t been to state before and we were still able to come out and win two games.”
Ulrich led the way for the Raptors in the win with 28 kills and eight digs, Hoeffel added 13 kills and 11 digs, while senior setter Kristen Jorgensen had a team-best 41 set assists and 11 digs. East Ridge junior libero Brandi Knupp led the team in digs with 20, followed by senior defensive stopper Cassie Yurick with 19 digs. Sophomore Margaret Eggert and junior Maggie Remke each had a team-high three blocks.
East Ridge finished the year 12-4 in its final 16 matches, including best-of-three wins over a pair of top-10 Class AAA teams — Lakeville South and Shakopee — capping it with a consolation championship trophy.
Roughly 800 students road the bus from East Ridge to St. Paul for the team’s first state tournament game — something that Hoeffel and Ulrich said was awesome.
“We were not expecting that,” Ulrich said. “That was crazy. A ton of people came out to support us. It was amazing.”
Eight East Ridge seniors played their final high school match for the Raptors at state — Ulrich, Hoeffel, Jorgensen, Melissa Sieben, Erica Bohlke, Jessica Bertrand, Kate Kelzenberg and Yurick.
“I can’t even really talk about it,” said the first-year Raptors’ head coach. “They’re such a great group and we’ll really miss them.”
Win over Mayo first ever at state
East Ridge won a state tournament match for the first-ever time and kept its season alive with a 3-2 victory over Rochester Mayo in the Class AAA state tournament consolation round semifinals on Friday, Nov. 12 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
What looked like a quick Raptors’ win, turned out to be a nail-biter as East Ridge earned a 15-9 fifth set win to advance to the consolation championship.
East Ridge won the first two games 25-18 and 25-22, respectively. However, Section 1AAA champion Rochester Mayo tied the match 2-2, winning the third game 25-13 and the fourth game 26-24 to force the fifth, and deciding, game.
In the fifth and final game, East Ridge took a 7-4 lead with a 4-0 run and never looked back. Rochester Mayo (24-7) got as close as 11-8 at one point, but the Raptors finished off the Spartans by winning four of the match’s last five points.
Ulrich led the way for the Raptors with 27 kills, 17 digs and three solo blocks and Hoeffel added 17 kills and 14 digs, while Knupp recorded a team-high 18 digs and Jorgensen had a team-high 41 set assists.
Prior to beating the Spartans, East Ridge opened its first-ever state tournament appearance against Lakeville North, suffering a 3-0 loss to the state’s No. 1-ranked team on Thursday, Nov. 11, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. At state, the top four teams are seeded, with the remaining four teams being paired by a random draw.
Hoeffel and Ulrich said they were disappointed they had to face Lakeville North in the first round, but both said they saw it as a challenge.
“If we were going to get first place, we were probably going to have to play them eventually, so why not right off the bat?” Ulrich said. “They’ve been ranked No. 1 in the state for a while, so it was cool to see where we stood against the best team. Our goal was to make them play their best game to beat us. I think we stepped up and did that.”
In the match, East Ridge fell 25-20, 25-21 and 25-13, but was close to upsetting the Panthers (30-1) in game one and two, being down only 20-19 in both games before Lakeville North pulled away.
“When you are out there on the court and get runs and take leads on teams that are that amazing is an accomplishment in itself,” Hoeffel said. “Not every team can compete with teams like that. We got to 20 points on them twice. Not many teams have gotten that high against them this season.”
Ulrich had a Raptors-best 15 kills and 14 digs, followed by Hoeffel with 12 kills and 12 digs. Jorgensen had 25 set assists and 10 digs.
“To be pushed that first match really helped us, because we battled,” Ashburn said. “It was a nice match to prepare us for the next round. Any team is beatable on any given night. If you play hard and play together you can challenge any team. I thin they really proved that in those first two games.”
Ashburn has coached high school volleyball for five years and has gone to the state tournament five times.
Ashburn brought St. Cloud Cathedral to the Class AA state tournament in each of her four seasons with the team and led East Ridge to the Class AAA state tournament in her first year with the Raptors. Her best finish was second place in 2007.
“I can’t complain, it’s nice, but I don’t coach for that,” Ashburn said. “I coach for the kids and try to support their goals. This was their goal, so it was very nice to get here.”