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2016 preview: East Ridge boys soccer team keeps expectations sky high

East Ridge coach Anthony Bidwell talks to his team before overtime against Roseville. (Bulletin photo by Dane Mizutani)

Raptors boys soccer might still have a sour taste in their mouths after losing a heartbreaker to Anoka in last year’s Class 2A state finals.

That, however, is not something coach Anthony Bidwell wants his players to think about -- not yet at least.

“It could be used as motivation somewhere down the road once we get to where we need to be as a program,” Bidwell said. “I’m sure it’s on the mind of some players. That’s not our focus right now, though.”

Bidwell instead wants his current roster focusing on getting the program back to playing at a high level. He knows the rest will take care of itself.

East Ridge finished last season with an impressive 15-3-3 record, and while they graduated a ton of talent -- including midfielders Ashwin Kolla and Keelan Spencer, and attackers Jarrod Ronquillo and Bailey Barjesteh, and defender Brock Sullivan, among a handful of others -- Bidwell is confident in the group of returners he has waiting in the wings.

“You want to build a program that creates success,” Bidwell said. “The way we characterize that success comes down to the kids living by our values as a program.”

And while it sounds cliche, it’s hard to argue with the results.

It seems every season the Raptors lose a talented bunch only to have new players step up to fill the void.

Bidwell attributes that to the values the upperclassmen help instill.

“We usually have had strong leadership from the upperclassmen,” he said. “That helps shape us as a program.”

This season captains Jake Boerjan and Joe Jung will be leading the charge.

Bidwell characterized both players as extremely vocal leaders.

“That’s important because there aren’t timeouts or anything like that,” Bidwell said. “So if we can get kids to communicate like they do it takes a lot of pressure off of us as coaches.”

Raptors goaltender Sam Richardson also returns after playing club during the offseason for the first time in his life.

“He’s come back a lot better,” Bidwell said. “He has shown tremendous growth. He’s going to be huge for us this season.”

Those things will be vital as East Ridge embarks on yet another quest for that elusive Class 2A title.

“We want to go against strong competition and we get that in the (Suburban East Conference),” Bidwell said. “We want to go against the best of the best. That’s the only way we’re going to stay highly competitive. And that’s the beauty of the SEC. It keeps us sharp and really prepares us for the postseason.”

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