It was a rematch from earlier on in the regular season.

The No. 2 seed East Ridge and No. 3 seed Woodbury battled for a spot in the section finals on Tuesday night and it was a battle.

Each team had a strong quarterfinals match with a 3-0 sweep. East Ridge swept Cretin-Derham Hall and Woodbury swept Henry Sibley last week.

Each team had been hoping and anticipating this match since the last time they met in early October and both teams looked through film and scouting reports.

Senior setter Courtney Cahill sets up a ball for sophomore middle hitter Braiziah Dixon on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. Woodbury fell 3-0 to East Ridge in the section semifinals to end their 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior setter Courtney Cahill sets up a ball for sophomore middle hitter Braiziah Dixon on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. Woodbury fell 3-0 to East Ridge in the section semifinals to end their 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

When it comes to a rivalry match like East Ridge and Woodbury, those reports are thrown away because each player knows the other player across the net. They've grown up in the same youth leagues, so each player knows the strengths and weaknesses on each of the teams.

"We were able to see what this rivalry match is like during the regular season," said East Ridge head coach Steve Anderson. "It was great to see all the fans and student sections come out for this match. It just makes it more special."

During the regular season match between these two teams, East Ridge finished with a 3-1 win over Woodbury. It was a battle to win a set during that first match and it was a similar pattern on Tuesday night as the Raptors came out with a 3-0 win over the Royals.

Even though it was a sweep for East Ridge, it didn't feel like it in the gym because each set was close and the Royals always fought back to try and take the lead late in each set.

East Ridge won the first two sets 25-21 and took the third and final set 25-19 to advance to the section finals later this week, while Woodbury's season has come to an end.

The main takeaways from this game that helped East Ridge win was the Raptors defensive play and the connection setter Audrey Spolidoro had with the various hitters on the team.

At the beginning of the season, Anderson and the captains for East Ridge all agreed that their defensive was going to be the backbone for this team. That mentality hasn't changed all season as defensive specialists have been able to dig the ball and make teams frustrated.

Junior outside hitter Lauren Galvin hits the ball across the court to record a point on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Raptors won 3-0 over Woodbury to advance to the section finals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Junior outside hitter Lauren Galvin hits the ball across the court to record a point on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Raptors won 3-0 over Woodbury to advance to the section finals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

The leaders of that back line include players like Macy Grehan, Faith Saewert, Jadyn Garrison, Lauren Galvin and Maria Chapman. There are plenty of other players that have had a role defensively, but the Raptors have done their job of not allowing easy kills to be easy.

The addition of Garrison has also helped this team because it makes the depth even stronger and allows a captain and leader of this team to return to the lineup.

"I'm so happy to be back on the court with my teammates," Garrison said. "It took some time to get back to normal, but I feel like I'm starting to feel like myself on the court once again. These girls did a great job while I was injured and I couldn't be happier to be a part of this team."

Junior defensive specialist Macy Grehan records the dig on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Raptors were able to sweep 3-0 over Woodbury to advance to the section finals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Junior defensive specialist Macy Grehan records the dig on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Raptors were able to sweep 3-0 over Woodbury to advance to the section finals. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

Along with the defensive mentality, the Raptors have built a strong setter with Spolidoro. After Stephanie Barber graduated last season, Anderson said they needed to find a setter for the 2019 season.

Spolidoro had strong skills at an early age and Anderson was excited to put her in the setter position to start this season. He's proud of her growth throughout the year and he's even more excited that she'll be back next year for her senior year.

As for Spolidoro, she's been learning a lot throughout this season and understanding the connections with each of the hitters.

"The chemistry I have with all of the hitters is amazing because I can set the ball for any hitter and I know they'll be there for the kill," Spolidoro said. "I'm just doing my job out there and our hitters are doing an amazing job of putting the ball away."

The Raptors will look to continue that balanced approach as they play in the section finals on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. at Hastings High School. East Ridge will take on No. 1 seed Eagan and it seems like this is a familiar opponent for the Raptors.

The Wildcats and Raptors have faced off in the section finals for the last two years and both seasons ended in a 3-0 win for Eagan. The Wildcats have reached the state tournament every year since 2013 and the East Ridge players are determined to make it their year to reach state.

Eagan is 26-0 this season and Garrison and Spolidoro agreed that they wanted to play the Wildcats in the section finals.

"We want to be the first team to give them a loss this season," Garrison said. "Eagan is a tough team, but we're excited to play them again this season."

Senior outside hitter Brianna Van Well blocks the ball to record a point for Woodbury on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Royals lost 3-0 to East Ridge to end the 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior outside hitter Brianna Van Well blocks the ball to record a point for Woodbury on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Royals lost 3-0 to East Ridge to end the 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

As for the Royals, their season came to an end on Tuesday night after a historic season for the Woodbury program. The team started off the season with a 14-0 record and put the Woodbury volleyball program on the map for the state of Minnesota.

The Royals finished the season 21-4, but the record isn't what first-year head coach Brad English is focused on. His attention is to the senior class and what they were able to do this season.

"I'm going to miss this senior class a lot because they developed the culture of Woodbury volleyball," English said. "They were all leaders this year and they are going to be truly missed."

This senior class hit English a little more because he was the junior varsity coach when these seniors were freshmen, so he was able to coach them as freshmen and as seniors at Woodbury. He also coached a handful of them during the club season too, so saying goodbye to these seniors will be tough for English.

As for this season, seniors Kayla Towne and Lici Mixson-Black agreed that they have zero regrets and they were so happy to be a part of this season.

"I will take back a lot of memories from this season because it was so much fun," Towne said. "Whether it was practices or matches or just hanging out after school, we were a family and that's how we approached the season."

Senior defensive specialist Julia Vang dives for a dig on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Royals lost 3-0 to East Ridge and ended their 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia
Senior defensive specialist Julia Vang dives for a dig on Tuesday, Oct. 29, at East Ridge High School. The Royals lost 3-0 to East Ridge and ended their 2019 season. Brian Mozey / RiverTown Multimedia

That family approach brought these players closer with one another, which led to stronger chemistry on the court to earn more wins. Towne and Mixson-Black knew that English would develop a culture at Woodbury when he was hired during the off season, but it was English and the other assistant coaches that helped build this team to where it is today.

"Each player had a role on this team and they embraced it fully," Mixson-Black said. "That helped with motivating players each practice and game and it helped us get on that winning streak early."

English and the Woodbury volleyball program will say goodbye to seven seniors this year including players like Towne, Mixson-Black, Abigail Hawks, Julia Vang, Courtney Cahill, Brianna Van Well and Ella Wolf.

The Royals will bring back some key players from this season like setter Jada Nunn, right side hitter Abby Lozano and middle hitter Braiziah Dixon. English is excited to see how that culture develops during the off season and heading into the 2020 season.

"We have some great players coming back next season and I'm excited to see what happens this off season," English said. "Even though we'll miss the seniors that are graduating, I think this program will continue to improve and it'll be a fun season next year."