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The Royals roster is bound to look a little different this season. Woodbury lost eight seniors from last year’s team, which went 4-9 during regular season play and fell 20-2 in the first round of the playoffs to Stillwater. This year’s team seems to feature a balance of youth and experience, as the Royals have four seniors, nine juniors and three sophomores. Woodbury junior Michelle McAlpine figures to be a stronghold in the Royals net. The Royals open their season tonight at home against Mahtomedi.
East Ridge isn’t shy about its aspirations this season. As they warmed up at a practice last week and a few throws went awry and balls flew around the field in the midst of blustery conditions, the players started to get verbal. “Come on guys, let’s focus,” a player said. “State champs.” That’s the Raptors mission. That’s their motivation. “Those are my brothers in there,” senior J.C. Conklin said, pointing at his teammates. “We know where everyone is on the field now. We’re together. We’ve got one goal. … Now we have that one goal.
Royals coach Kevin McDermott is seeing a bit of an uneasy trend develop early with his Woodbury squad. The Royals aren’t getting the big hits with two outs. It didn’t hurt Woodbury in its season-opening win against East Ridge, where the Royals hit four balls out of the park, but it cost the Royals Wednesday night in a 6-3 loss to Roseville. Multiple times the Royals failed to produce with runners in scoring position, while Roseville lived off of two-out scoring.
East Ridge's offense got off to a slow start against White Bear Lake Wednesday night. But it didn't matter, because the Bears' bats never got going. East Ridge starter Grant Ryerse made sure of that. Ryerse struck out six hitters as he tossed a complete game one-hitter as East Ridge knocked off White Bear Lake 8-0. East Ridge's bats came to life in the sixth inning, when it finally scored a run.
Woodbury has a little bit of everything heading into the 2015 track and field season. The Royals have sprinters, lots of strong middle-distance runners, a long distance ace and a state meet hurdler. “We have some strong prospects in a lot of our relays this year,” Woodbury head coach DJ Billingsley said. “I’m very excited.” Woodbury had a young team last year. Most of those athletes are back, bigger, stronger and faster. The Royals are still young, however, with just six seniors on a roster of 64.
East Ridge girls track figures to take a minor step down from the level it was at last season. The Raptors lost key contributors such as Sanda Gramer and Bailey Ness from the team that won a True Team section title and placed eighth at the state meet. But co-coach Kelsey Joson said when the Raptors do lose girls, there are others waiting to step up. “What we do is we really try to build from the bottom up. We value all of our athletes from JV all the way up,” Joson said. “Yes, we lost a lot of people, but in the process a lot of people were developing and were under noticed.
The East Ridge boys track and field team sent just one athlete to state last season. Head coach Shannon Rainey expects that number to grow exponentially this season. “I think we’ll have probably four individuals and one relay will be there,” Rainey said. Rainey said someone nobody is talking about is sophomore Marcus Haskins, who Rainey expects to shine in the 300 hurdles and either the 400 meter dash or 800 meter run. “He’s really, really talented,” Rainey said. “This guy can just run.
In East Ridge head coach Brian Sprout’s experience, strength up the middle can make all the difference. “If you are strong up the middle, you’re the team that competes for championships — whether it’s conference or sections or whatever it is,” Sprout said.
Eagles softball coach Mick Ramey likened his roster to a stable. “We’ve got horses and ponies,” he said. And both are going to need to run well for New Life to have success this season. Ramey said the Eagles will be led by their seniors — their horses — up the middle, with collegiate signees Valerie Hohol and Malorie Giere likely forming the best battery in the state on the mound and behind the plate. Behind Hohol will be the glove of Sydney Steele, who will patrol centerfield. All three of the Eagles’ seniors are captains.
New Life baseball knows things won’t be the same this season, fresh off its run to the 2014 Class A state championship a year ago. A large chunk of the top of New Life’s order is missing, and the target on the Eagles’ backs is a lot bigger. But it’s not all different. “I’d say the expectation is pretty much the same as last year,” senior Sam Horner said. Which means the Eagles have designs to win another Section 4A crown to get back to the state tournament and defend their crown. “We set the bar high last year and we feel like we have put ourselves in a pretty good position to at least ma