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Volleyball: Raptors hope to compete with state's best

Senior hitter Janie Grindland (10) returns to the front line for the East Ridge Raptors, but the team will miss the big hitting of graduated senior Allie Barber (9). Photo by John Molene

New head coach Steve Anderson, who had a successful 10-year run coaching at North St. Paul, is coming south this season take over a prosperous volleyball program at East Ridge.

Anderson, a Woodbury resident, was eager to apply to coach the Raptors when he saw an opening and a chance to be closer to home. He'll take over a Raptors team coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons, but is missing several of its top players from those teams.

East Ridge was 21-10-1 last season, including a third-place finish in the Suburban East Conference with a 5-2 record. The Raptors lost in five sets in the Section 3AAA semifinals to league co-champion Cretin-Derham Hall.

The Raptors were extremely competitive against some of the best in the state last season, battling teams such as Eagan, Edina, Cretin, Lakeville South and Roseville.

East Ridge started similarly this season, giving second-ranked Prior Lake a four-set battle before falling in the season opener.

Anderson's eventual goal is to turn those close losses into wins.

Returning veterans for the Raptors include senior captains Ella Ratzloff and Janie Grindland and juniors Stephanie Barber and Kate Reimann. Ratzloff will be the team's libero, Grindland is a 6-foot tall middle hitter. Barber is a setter and Reimann is a 5-foot-10 outside hitter.

"We have a lot of talent," Anderson said. "Our biggest strength is ball control, we serve and pass well. We can do some fun things on the offensive end. On defense, we have the ability to get the ball up and over. They're a scrappy bunch of girls."

The Raptors have talent and depth, Anderson added.

"We're pretty even," he said. "There isn't a weak position. And we have a lot of depth. There are girls on the JV who would be on the varsity at other places without a doubt."

Work ethics, communication and unselfish play are also looking good, Anderson said.

"We talk a lot about giving to their teammates, what can they bring and a mass number of girls already have that mindset," Anderson said. "All the girls are buying into that concept and playing really together. Our goals are what can we expect today to get the team better today."

Anderson sees perennial power Roseville and Stillwater as the teams to beat in the conference this season.