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Volleyball: East Ridge falls after thrilling section match

East Ridge's Laine Hoeffel (6) and Janie Grindland (10) jump to block a ball against Cretin-Derham Hall Wednesday in a section semifinals match against Cretin-Derham Hall in Prior Lake. (Photo by John Molene)1 / 3
East Ridge senior Allie Barber slams down a shot against Cretin-Derham Hall Wednesday. Barber, one of the state's leaders in kills, played one of her best matches against the Raiders. (Photo by John Molene)2 / 3
East Ridge's Ella Ratzloff bumps a shot back against Cretin-Derham Hall in a section semifinals match on Wednesday. (Photo by John Molene)3 / 3

Ranked 14th and 15th in the last Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association poll of the season, one figured Wednesday’s match between the longtime Suburban East Conference rivals would be a thriller.

It was.

Cretin-Derham Hall, ranked 14th, edged East Ridge in a match for the ages, winning 25-15, 25-19, 22-25, 29-31 and 15-11.

“We played with all of our heart out there,” said East Ridge head coach Maddy Amon. “I’m proud of every single one of them. There’s nothing to frown about. There’s nothing to hang their heads about. And I thanked the seniors for giving everything that they did to the program and leaving a good legacy.”

After sleepwalking through the first two sets, the Raptors rallied with stirring play to force a fifth set. The Raptors had a serious heart-to-heart talk after falling behind by two sets early.

“We were playing not to lose, but we wanted to win,” said East Ridge senior right hitter Laine Hoeffel. “So what we said was that we have to put our hearts out there, we have to win it all. We have to go all out and make sure we leave everything on the court with no regrets.”

The fourth set was a thriller as neither team would give an inch. There were no less than 14 ties before the Raptors put it away on big hits by Allie Barber and Kate Reimann and a block for the win.

“I’m thinking that there’s really no other way I’d rather go out,” said Barber. “There was great competition on both sides of the net and Cretin is always a great volleyball rival the past four years I’ve been at East Ridge.”

The two teams battled close throughout the fifth set. It looked like the momentum might be with the Raptors when Barber brought them back to within 12-11. But a service error gave the Raiders a 13-11 lead and the next East Ridge hit went out of bounds. Cretin-Derham Hall then won it on something they consistently excelled in Wednesday, blocking, to end the Raptors’ season.

“They shut us down blocking-wise,” said Amon. “They did really well blocking, and they played a really game.”

East Ridge finished 21-10 on the year, highlighted by wins over Cretin-Derham Hall (2-0 in the Lakeville North tournament), as well as victories over ninth-ranked Lakeville North (3-1) and 17th-ranked Moorhead (2-1).

East Ridge senior standouts Barber, Hoeffel, Leah Witzel and Brinn Strenger wrapped up stellar high school careers in style.

Cretin-Derham Hall now plays top-ranked Eagan (27-1) on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Prior Lake High School for the section championship and a trip to the state volleyball tournament. Eagan swept Rosemount 3-0 in the earlier section semifinal.

“Brynn Carlson (the Raider’s 6-foot, 4-inch outside hitter) really executed on their balls,” said Hoeffel. “She missed a lot of hits when we played them in the (Lakeville North) tournament. That really helped our team. And their blocks got a lot better. We improved, but not as much as we needed to to win this match tonight.”