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Girls' soccer: Raptors work on building cohesiveness

The East Ridge girls' soccer team is working to build familiarity between the new and returning players on the varsity team this year.

The Raptors lost a talented group of seniors from last year, including two who are now playing Division 1 college soccer. Brittany Mahowald is on the roster at Air Force this season while Emily Bunnell is playing at Baylor.

Last year's graduates have left the Raptors with varsity newcomers at most of the midfield and forward positions. Half of the team's starting back line has returned, as well as two goalkeepers from last year.

The Raptors started the season with a test on Thursday, Aug. 24, facing No. 3 ranked Eagan and losing 1-0.

"We've only played one game, but we did generate some good offensive chances," said Tim Bunnell, who is in his first year as head coach after previously being an assistant. "It's just going to take time for those players to click and for us to get used to our system of how we're working together and creating opportunities."

At goalkeeper, the Raptors will plan to rotate returning varsity players Erika Freiberg and Payton Gutenberg along with sophomore Lauryn Trebel.

"All three of them are going to get time this year," Bunnell said.

East Ridge finished in a tie for third place in the Suburban East Conference last year with a 5-3 record. Mounds View was also 5-3 in the conference, with Stillwater finishing in first place (7-1) and Cretin-Derham Hall taking second place (5-1-2).

The Raptors turned it on in the playoffs, winning at Stillwater 4-0 for a Class 2A, Section 4 championship. Andover defeated East Ridge 2-0 in the first round of the Class 2A state tournament on Oct. 27.

Bunnell said the Raptors have some work to do to get the roster in sync, but he did not rule out the possibility of having another competitive season in the SEC and the section playoffs.

"They may be ambitious, but they are reachable," Bunnell said about having similar goals. "I believe the group will put in the work necessary to give us a chance a chance."

The Raptors were scheduled to play St. Michael-Albertville on Monday, Aug. 28, before heading to Mahtomedi for a Thursday, Aug. 31, matchup at 7 p.m.

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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