The girls volleyball programs prepare for tough competition and higher expectations

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The sound of volleyballs being slapped echoes throughout the gym and the hallways of East Ridge, Woodbury, New Life Academy and Math & Science Academy.

Besides the volleyballs, people can hear the communication between setters and hitters and defensive specialists.

The volleyball season has returned and the competition is better than ever before.

"It's so nice to be back on the courts and playing with your school once again," said New Life senior Kate Rogers. "We know what needs to happen to reach that state tournament once again."

Last season, the Eagles had a season to remember as they made a trip to the state tournament and came out with the consolation championship. Even though it wasn't first place, the team learned so much throughout that process last season.

Luckily, for head coach Wally Bomgren, he returns every player except one and every player is hungry for another state tournament appearance. The target is on this team's back, but he isn't worried because he knows this team is mature enough to handle it.

"It was a fun run last season and being able to watch these girls show their talent and hard work throughout the season," Bomgren said. "Now, it'll be fun to see how this team comes back this season and tries for another state tournament run."

East Ridge might've not gone to the state tournament, but the Raptors won their conference championship for the first time in program history. Now, the eyes are focused on making it to the state tournament this season.

To reach state, the Raptors will have to go through the Eagan Wildcats, who have reached the state finals the past five years. The Suburban East Conference is not an easy conference and East Ridge will be playing the best teams day in and day out.

"To be the best, you have to beat the best," said East Ridge senior setter Stephanie Barber. "We know we'll be playing some of the best teams in the state during our conference season, but we're ready for the challenges that come our way."

With a variety of players in different grades, the future continues to look bright for the East Ridge volleyball program. Anderson knows the team is filled with talent and, now, he has to make sure that talent meshes the right way to form a strong team.

The majority of his players have competed in club volleyball during the offseason, so they're used to other teammates and other coaches. Now that the high school season has started, Anderson is ready to take what they've learned from there and incorporate it into the high school season.

"I'm excited to see what these girls can do this season because we have a lot of talent," Anderson said.

Another team eyeing a big step forward is Park and head coach Kristina Jameson is seeing a competitive spirit from each of the girls on the team. This will lead to more girls fighting for starting spots and leading this team to a successful season.

The previous season had a lot of changes to the coaching staff and little consistency, but Jameson thinks that this season has more stability.

"The coaching staff has a great relationship with the girls and making sure their main focus is on the development of these players," Jameson said.

The girls are excited for this season because many of the players return from last season and the team chemistry is higher than ever before. There's also a trust between the players and Jameson this season, so they can build from last season and prepare for some tough competition this season.

"Every girl has been working hard this offseason to make sure we were in the best shape for this upcoming season," said senior Chloe Cordell. "I'm just excited to see how this team works together during matches and such this season."

For the Math & Science Academy Dragons, the team is getting familiar with a couple new faces in the coaching roles. Lisa Steinbrecher and Jeff Hansen are the new coaches for the Dragons this season.

The biggest aspect this preseason has been the focus of conditioning and making sure the girls are ready to play a five-set match.

"Last season, you could definitely tell that we would be tired in the fifth set, so they've been helping us with our stamina," said Hannah Frazer. "Now, we are confident that we can play as many sets as needed to win a match."

The coaches have focused on three aspects to the game of volleyball. Those three include physical, mental and emotional because if a player can handle all three of those in a match, there's no problem they can't fix on their own.

The two coaches are excited about the talent that's returned this season as well as new girls coming onto the team. Even though there hasn't been a lot of time spent with these new coaches, they are excited about the future of this program.

"These girls have been working really hard this offseason and preseason," Steinbrecher said. "And it's showing in practices, so I'm excited to get this season started."