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East Ridge girls golf: Raptors win Suburban East Conference championship

A year ago, the East Ridge girls golf team finished second in the Suburban East Conference standings. The Raptors weren't about to come up just short again.

East Ridge won this year's conference championship title, leapfrogging Forest Lake with a third-straight first-place finish at the SEC Championship Tournament on Thursday, May 23, at Oak Glen Golf Course in Stillwater.

"I don't know how they did it," East Ridge head coach Mark Retica said. "It's extremely satisfying. It's been such a challenging spring with the weather. It was fun. There was no shortage of smiles. They really did something special."

East Ridge and Forest Lake were the only two teams to win SEC tournaments this season. The Raptors finished with five first-place finishes on the season and 79 total points. Forest Lake won four matches and took second with 71 points. Woodbury was third with 64 points.

The Raptors scored a 372 as a team at the SEC Championship Tournament to earn the maximum 18 points. Four juniors led the way for East Ridge. Andriel Aimua, a team captain, led the way for the Raptors with a 90 in the two-day, 18-hole competition. Taylor Anderson had East Ridge's second-best tourney, scoring a 92. Molly Richardson turned in the Raptors' third-best score for the tournament with a 94 and Jaedyn Walz rounded out the top four with a 96. Mounds View took second at the SEC tourney for 16 points, followed by third-place Cretin-Derham Hall, which earned 14 points. Forest Lake took fifth place and earned 10 points. The eight-point margin in the championship match was the difference in the overall title between the Raptors and the Rangers.

"We had a couple young ladies in Andriel and Molly that knew what the expectations were and met those expectations over the course of the season, but to their credit, some of the girls that fell in the third, fourth, fifth and even sixth spots were able to post scores that pushed us over the edge in some cases," Retica said. "Those players were extremely important."

Aimua, Anderson and Richardson all earned All-Conference awards on the year and Waltz took home All-Conference honorable mention. The top 18 golfers are All-Conference and the next 12 are honorable mention. Richardson and Aimua were also All-Conference a year ago and Anderson earned honorable mention. Other players to score for the Raptors varsity team this season were Morgan Butler, Daniel Mischke and Allison Bugel.

Aimua finished second overall in the individual conference standings behind Cretin-Derham Hall standout Celia Kuenster. Aimua had 375 strokes this season. Kuenster had 326.

"That's a credit to (Aimua's) work ethic," Retica said. "She works hard and really wants to be good. She's the last one to leave practice and is always working on improving something."

Last year, East Ridge was unable to send a golfer to the state tournament but that's something the Raptors have their sights on changing. East Ridge will be one of the favorites to win this year's Section 3AAA Championship Tournament. The two-day tournament begins Wednesday at Phalen Golf Course in St. Paul and finishes up at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids on Friday. Out of section play, only one team advances to state, based on the two-day total, along with five individuals not on the top team. Last year, with its finish in the top five on day No. 1, the Raptors earned its first-ever trip to the second day and finished in fourth place overall in the 11-team section. Overall, East Ridge shot a 718 with a 359 on the first day and a 359 on the second day. Eastview won the Section 3AAA championship with a 672.

Individually, Aimua had the Raptors' top two-day total last season, shooting a 174, with an 85 on the first day and an 89 on the second day. Her score was good for seventh place overall out of those not on Eastview's roster.

Retica said it's extremely important for the girls to play well on the first day to set themselves up well for the second day.

"We found ourselves, last year, in a hole that was a little too big to dig out of," Retica said. "They realize that this first day is as important as the second day, if not more so. That just makes Friday that much easier. It'll be a challenge. The girls will have to step up and shoot some good numbers, but they're certainly capable of it."