East Ridge golfer, senior Molly Richardson (left) and Taylor Anderson. ] JIM GEHRZ ‚Ä¢ email@example.com / Woodbury, MN / April 15, 2014 / 3:45 PM / BACKGROUND INFORMATION: East Ridge girls' golfers, seniors Andriel Aimua, Molly Ri
The way last season ended for the East Ridge girls’ golf team was enough motivation for anyone, especially a group that had never been to state.
But this year’s team — a talented lineup featuring six seniors — might benefit from not thinking about it.
The Raptors held a six-shot lead after the first day of the Class 3A, Section 3 meet but ended up losing in a tiebreaker to Eagan to miss the state tournament.
“We were ridiculously close,” senior Taylor Anderson said. “I think that in and of itself … was kind of a surprise to us.”
It won’t be this year. With their full lineup returning, the Raptors are expected to be one of the top teams among the biggest schools. And those expectations weigh on the players.
“We have so much talent, and I guess you could say the pressure of all [that] sometimes gets mounted on our shoulders,” senior Andriel Aimua said. “We want to do so well.”
East Ridge, which opened five years ago in Woodbury, won its first conference title last season. Hours after the team loss to Eagan, Aimua and Molly Richardson battled each other for an individual spot at the state tournament.
Aimua won the playoff and then tied for 19th at state. Anderson tied for 26th.
Anderson said that during the middle of last season she hadn’t thought she would be able to make state.
But for the Raptors, last year was a learning experience — learning how to handle adversity and learning just how good they were.
“It showed us that we really did have the ability to get to state,” Richardson said. “I think that moving into this year, we’re definitely working a lot harder toward that.”
Richardson, Anderson and Aimua make up half of the Raptors’ talented senior class. The seniors have played together since at least ninth grade and know the game as well as any of the state’s top golfers.
They’ve also developed a close bond off the course. Anderson said the players shared a couple of overnights last season that brought them together.
“If I can stay out of their way, they’ll be successful,” coach Mark Retica said.
While the Raptors have talent and experience, they have yet to prove themselves on the big stage.
That’s one reason they’re emphasizing the mental part of golf this season. Aimua, Anderson and Richardson all said staying focused will be the key to the Raptors’ success.
“Sometimes we get a little tense, and that kind of messes up our game,” Aimua said. “But if we just lighten up a little bit, just relax and calm down, I’m pretty sure that should help us.”
Retica said the team has high expectations: a second consecutive Suburban East Conference championship and a trip to state.
“Once you get there, I think we’re a group that should be competitive with anybody in the state of Minnesota,” Retica said.
Charlie Armitz is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.