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Emily Hrastich, right, joins Claire Whitman for what should be a fearsome offensive attack for the Raptors in 2014. (Bulletin file photo)

East Ridge has another talented senior crop

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sports Cottage Grove, 55016
Cottage Grove Minnesota 7584 80th Street South 55016

The East Ridge volleyball team graduated five key seniors from last year’s team, which finished 19-10.

And yet the Raptors are still ripe with experience.

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East Ridge head coach Erin Nickleby made a point to play several underclassmen the past two seasons, and five new seniors will lead this year’s team.

“Their experience comes with the comfort of being on the court,” Nickleby said. “The senior leadership and being able to pull those young ones in and set the bar high, it’s just very natural for them because of their experience.”

The group of Raptors seniors helped the team to a 5-4 record in a competitive Suburban East Conference in 2013.

Nickleby said the Raptors will lean on their offense this year. And all-conference performer Claire Whitman will lead that offense.

Whitman, a 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter, led East Ridge with 248 kills last season. She’ll team with senior middle hitter Emily Hrastich to form what should be a very formidable frontcourt.

“They’re great all-around athletes,” Nickleby said. “They should be able to rattle off some points.”

Nickleby was hesitant to make any predictions about other teams in the Suburban East, but said she expects Stillwater and Roseville to be among the best in the conference.

Still, she said she expects her Raptors to be very competitive and said they had already established strong chemistry in the first week-plus of practice.

“If we can have some strong skills and flow well and have some fluidity, that’s going to be really huge for us and a huge advantage we’ll have over other teams,” Nickleby said. “Consistency will be key for us to stay at a high level, and I do believe we’re at a top level.”

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