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East Ridge girls soccer: Raptors top Eastview in opener

The East Ridge Raptors kicked off the 2016 girls’ soccer season with a bang last Thursday, scoring a 3-0 home win against ninth-ranked Eastview.

The Raptors, ranked 17th in the girls’ Class 2A preseason poll, dominated the action both offensively and defensively.

“Eastview is a good team,” Raptors coach Mark Abboud said. “That’s why we scheduled them. Again, coming into this year I knew we were going to have a strong team and I knew we wanted to get tested as early as we could by good teams. Luckily things just went our way. We’ve had about 1-1/2 weeks of training, so it’s really effort and attitude.

“I was counting on the girls and I think they showed it. The core group of 14 seniors who I think led by example, our little ninth-grader gets our first goal and opens up our campaign really well, and the fans were unbelievable. It meant a lot to the girls to have that type of fan support there. Twenty-three girls saw the field and 23 contributed.”

On a veteran team, it was freshman defender Madison Majewski who drew first blood, scoring in the first half. Brittany Mahowald gave East Ridge a 2-0 lead with 16 minutes, 2 seconds to play in the first half.

“I felt that we possessed really, really well in our attacking half, and even in our last third, I felt there wasn’t a lot of kicking, and there were a lot of great possessions and we got three goals,” left wing Majewski said. “Last year they beat us 3-0, so it was a turn of events.”

Emily Bunnell made it a 3-0 East Ridge advantage with a goal at the 34:32 mark in the second half.

The Raptors used a pair of sophomores in goal. Erika Freiberg and Peyton Gutenberg, returning varsity players, both made several tough stops to preserve the shutout.

“I think we went in thinking well of ourselves,” junior center back Tori Bennett said. “Our goal is to go to state, so I think we went in and planned to play well.”

Freiberg and Gutenberg showed a lot of maturity in keeping another clean sheet in the second match of the season, Abboud said. It was a 1-0 win Monday at St. Michael-Albertville (STMA).

Mahowald started things off with a first-half goal, flicking in a header on an assist from fellow senior Emma Stoehr. In the second half, Mahowald hit the post.

STMA caused East Ridge some trouble, though, Abboud said, and the Raptors turned in their second gutsy performance of the week.

“To St. Michael’s credit, they really took it to us,” Abboud said.

At halftime, the team talked about absorbing the blows by other team and that championship teams create their own chances. East Ridge changed its tactics to protect the lead and “kill the game,” Abboud said. That part of their game will only get better as they amass wins in tight matches against worthy opponents.

The Raptors played at Lakeville North on Tuesday. Next they play a home game against Mahtomedi at 1 p.m. Thursday, then an away game against Rosemount next Tuesday, Sept. 6.

The tough early-season schedule will test the Raptors’ depth. Players who didn’t see the field on Monday were ready to contribute on Tuesday.

Mathias Baden contributed to this report.