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Volleyball: Battle-tested Raptors see benefits of tough schedule

East Ridge hitters Avery Burger (12) and Janie Grindland (10) go up to block a Mounds View shot in game two Tuesday. Photo by John Molene1 / 3
Senior middle hitter Janie Grindland of the Raptors powers a points past a Mounds View defender in game two. Photo by John Molene2 / 3
Alaina Erickson, left, and Grace Whitman of the Raptors successfully block a shot in game three. Photo by John Molene3 / 3

All those early games against top-10 opponents are starting to pay off for the East Ridge Raptors.

East Ridge and Mounds View came into Tuesday's game with similar records, but the Raptors easily dominated the visiting Mustangs, sweeping three games.

East Ridge won 25-18, 25-18 and 25-16. The Raptors jumped out to big leads in games one and two, took their feet off the pedal a bit, but still were able to close out the wins.

It was the third straight win for the 10th-ranked Raptors, who have faced a rugged schedule this fall. The Raptors have played two matches against top-ranked Lakeville North, and single matches against No. 2 Eagan, No. 7 Prior Lake and Minneota, ranked eighth in Class A.

Senior Janie Grindland played another standout game at middle hitter for the Raptors but completely whiffed when asked what the Raptors were not doing well.

"I think we're doing really well at spreading our offense and switching up our shots," said Grindland. "As for not so well ... I feel like ... um, I'm really trying to think of something."

Grindland couldn't come up with a single problem area, and that's good news for the Raptors.

The Raptors — battle-hardened from playing the top competition in the state — are now using their experiences in those games to their advantage.

"They really are," said Grindland of the tough early games which have honed the Raptors. "Playing the top teams in the state has helped us speed up our game and get scrappy and figure out what we need to do to defeat those hard teams."

All of East Ridge's losses this season have been against ranked teams. In that stretch, the Raptors took both No. 1 Lakeville North and No. 2 Eagan to five games before falling.

"They're all state-ranked teams," said East Ridge head coach Steve Anderson. "In my opinion playing against good competition makes you better. We want to aim to make our schedule tough and competitive so it challenges our girls, and they get tested and they learn from that.

"To take the No. 1 and 2 teams in the state both to five sets and have chances to win in both of them was tough," Anderson added. "We obviously want to win. But at the same time, it gave the girls a lot of confidence knowing they can play with the best."

East Ridge improved to 7-5 overall and 2-0 in the Suburban East Conference.

Mounds View fell to 6-5 and 0-2 in the conference.

"I thought offensively we had a really good, clean, game," said Anderson. "We didn't make a lot of mistakes, or hitting errors and stuff like that. They have some pretty good blockers, but overall we were able to kind of get around them and mix up our shots and play smart volleyball from that perspective."