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Volleyball: Raiders finish fourth at Henry Sibley Invite

The Suburban East Conference season is always tough. Teams hope to be playing their best when the conference season rolls around.

For the Hastings High School volleyball team, the Raiders are not only playing the best they have played all season heading into the conference opener today, they are playing the best they have played in a long time, according to head coach Rita Girgen.

The Raiders went 2-3 during the Henry Sibley Invitational last weekend, finishing in fourth place and improving the Raiders' record to 4-9 this season.

The Raiders won just three matches a year ago.

"That is the best I?have seen the girls play in years,"?Girgen said about the Sibley Invite. "They had chemistry and executed their skills. They played an all-around game, not just certain aspects."

The Raiders opened the tournament with a loss to Bloomington Jefferson, but defeated St. Paul Highland Park and River Falls to follow.

The team then lost to Henry Sibley and Edina to finish fourth overall.

"It's very exciting to see it all come together,"?Girgen said. "I think it's more rewarding for them to see all their hard work is paying off, that there is a purpose to everything they are doing."

Junior Elly Braaten led the Raiders with 32 kills during the tournament, while junior Hannah Gelhar added 13.

Braaten also led the team in digs with 45 and blocks with four.

Junior Lisa Kranz led the Raiders with 83 set assists and also added 38 digs and 12 service aces.

Girgen hopes the team's recent solid play will carry over into the conference season, which begins at 7 p.m. today (Thursday) at home against Cretin-Derham Hall.

"I do think we will be much more successful this year (in the conference),"?Girgen said.?"We have been sitting at the bottom for the last few years, but this year, we are going to give teams a run for their money, where in years past, they haven't even looked at us."

The?Raiders already played Cretin this season in the Apple Valley Tournament.

The Raiders lost two tough sets against Cretin, but managed to keep it close.

"We didn't play up to our expectations last time and still hung with them," Girgen said. "If we bring the game we have been playing with, we should be able to take Cretin, which would be a huge upset."