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2013 Fall Sports Preview: Experience plentiful for East Ridge volleyball team

Junior outside hitter Claire Whitman recorded 177 kills for the Raptors last season. (Bulletin file photo)

The Raptors will look to build on a strong end to the 2012 season as they rev up for 2013 with a deeper, more experienced team.

Buoyed by just two seniors, East Ridge finished the 2012 regular season second in the 10-team Suburban East Conference before making it to the semifinals of the Section 4AAA tournament, where the Raptors fell to North St. Paul.

Second-year coach Erin Nickleby said she’s encouraged by the number of returning players — including junior outside hitter Claire Whitman, who last season recorded 177 kills — and defensive depth. Nickleby lauded the team’s “great cohesion” and set her sights high for 2013, but admitted that Cretin-Derham Hall and Roseville will present challenges in conference and section play.

Returning starters for the Raptors include Maddie Christenson, a outside hitter who Nickleby said will be counted on for leadership. The 5-foot-10-inch senior compiled 25 aces and 192 digs in the 2012 campaign.

Other returning players include junior mid-hitter Emily Hrastich, junior setter Savanna Lipps, senior setter Makayla Sauro, senior mid-hitter Jamie Swanson and senior setter Sydney Kleinhuizen.

Hrastich recorded 23 kills last season, while Lipps served 24 aces and amassed 304 digs in 2012. Swanson, who stands 6 feet tall, logged 106 kills last season.

Nickleby said rising stars could include Allison Barber, a freshman setter with “great hands and great potential” and eighth-grader Ella Ratzloff, a setter who the coach said “plays aggressive and reads well.”

—Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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