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2013 Spring Preview: Burgeoning East Ridge girls lacrosse team hopes to build on successful first season

East Ridge junior Jess Hammer returns to help lead the Raptors girls lacrosse team this year.

After its first year playing as a solo program in 2012, the East Ridge girls lacrosse team brings back a majority of its roster this spring in hopes of improving on what was a solid start.

East Ridge went 5-8 overall in its first season, under the guidance of head coach Amy Fortney.

Fortney is back this spring, along with a number of the team's top players.

"We had a lot of success in our first year as a program," Fortney said. "Now the pressure is on to continue to build on that success, and continue to grow this program. We have a lot of young talent, and will have some fresh faces on the field this season who we will be looking towards to make big contributions for us."

East Ridge lost two solid defenders and team captains due to graduation in Sarah Bailey and Sarah Ringgenberg. However, the team welcomes back a number of top players, including junior midfielders Kayla Griffith, Ella Frazer, Jess Hammer and Sam Hammer, freshman midfielder Megan Yoshida and sophomore goalie Cara Kaufer. Frazer and Griffith will serve as captains this season. Griffith led the team in scoring last year with 24 points on 23 goals and one assist. Hammer was second with 14 points on 13 goals and one assist.

East Ridge went 3-6 in Suburban East Conference play last year, with wins over Woodbury, Hastings and Forest Lake.

This year, Cretin-Derham Hall, Roseville and Stillwater --who were all 8-1 in conference play -- are expected to again lead the way in the SEC.

"We are in a tough conference with a lot great teams," Fortney said. "Roseville, Stillwater and Cretin are all great teams with great coaches that we want to have a good showing against and play our best. Mounds View is also a tough team that we look forward to playing. And always we enjoy playing against Park and Woodbury."

Stillwater will also be the team to beat in the new-look Section 4. Other tough section teams will likely be Mahtomedi, Park and White Bear Lake. Last year, East Ridge was knocked off by Benilde-St. Margaret's 16-8 in the opening round of the playoffs.

East Ridge kicks off the season on the road against Rosemount on April 11. The Irish topped the Raptors 10-9 in an early-season matchup last year. Other key games include a home game against Mounds View on May 1, at Park on May 6, at Stillwater on May 13 and at home against White Bear Lake on May 15.

"We just want to get better as a team every game, every practice and every opportunity we get," Fortney said.