8/29/2019 1:57:00 PM Vikings open state title defense with wins over tough opponents
North Branch 3, Southwest Christian 2 Many of the familiar faces that carried North Branch to a state championship last year were back at it to start the season in the Breakdown Sideout Classic at Edina High School on Saturday, August 24.
The Vikings took on #8AA Southwest Christian and despite falling into 1-0 and 2-1 holes, North Branch showed that mental toughness that served them so well at state last year and won the last two sets to complete the five set comeback win.
The Stars took the first set from North Branch 25-23 after digging out of an early hole.
The Vikings quickly answered back with a 25-19 win in the second set before SW retook the lead with a 25-21 win in the third set.
The back-and-forth affair continued, with North Branch staving off a loss and winning the fourth set 25-15, setting up a winner-take-all race to 15 in the fifth set.
The set was a thrilling display of quality volleyball, with both teams fighting for every point. Despite facing multiple match points in the game, North Branch fended off the Stars, eventually winning 19-17.
The Vikings got 58 digs and 29 kills from returning all-everything senior Cianna Selbitschka, and junior setter Claire Sheehan had 43 assists to go along with five kills and three aces.
Paige Peaslee and Haley Hadrava showed their continued evolution also, with Peaslee stepping in nicely to a secondary hitter role, and getting seven kills and 11 digs. Hadrava showed she’s even better this year with an offseason of preparation away from the setters spot. She had 22 digs, five kills and two aces.
North Branch 3, Moorhead 1 The SW Christian match wasn’t the first of the year for the Vikings, as they had taken on Moorhead on Friday, August 23 at Forest Lake.
The early season schedule for the Vikings has been jumbled and hectic because of construction in the North Branch gym/fitness center. The grand opening is scheduled for Friday, September 6, but until then, North Branch has been road warriors. Practicing and playing when available at Forest Lake High School.
Despite the neutral site and tough opponent -- Moorhead went to the Class AAA state tournament last year -- North Branch had no problem tossing the Spuds aside.
They won big in the first set 25-14 to set the tone of the night. Despite losing the second set, North Branch earned another lopsided win in the third set before wrapping up their first win of the season with a 25-22 win in the fourth set.
The Viking attack was more varied in the season opener. Selbitschka was still the focal point with 18 kills and 19 digs, but Hadrava had seven kills, Peaslee had four kills and Reagan Irons, who missed the SW Christian game with a family committment, had four kills and three blocks. Sheehan had 33 assists and four aces.
Kylie Kline kept up her strong defensive play, digging out 19 balls and hitting two aces.