|10/30/2020 3:25:00 PM|
Monti gets the best of NB in key M8C clash
Head Coach Mike Selbitschka knew Monticello was going to be a tough team to beat this year. They gave North Branch a run for their money last year for the conference crown and only graduated one starter from that team.
Selbitschka got the answer on Wednesday, October 21 to who the Mississippi 8 Conference will run through this year when Monticello swept North Branch 25-21, 25-22, 25-18.
It was a dramatic match despite being a sweep. In the first set, it was locked at 21-21 until a late Magic run put the game in the bag for Monti 25-21.
The second set is when things got weird. North Branch took a big lead, going up 21-13 and looking like they would even the match at a set apiece. And then the wheels came off a bit for North Branch as Monti rattled off 12 of the next 13 points to stun the Vikings.
“We just got inefficient with the little things,” Head Coach Mike Selbitschka said. “Monticello did some good things, but not great things. We just struggled with controlling our own side. That’s part of being a young team that needs to continue to grow.”
With the demoralizing second set loss, the third set, at times, seemed like a given as Monticello eventually won 25-22.
North Branch middles Reagan Irons and Paige Peaslee were the best offensive weapons again, with each gathering six kills, and outside hitter Lindsey Bunes had five kills, but it wasn’t enough to combat Megan Wetter and Natalie Emmerich of Monticello, who combined for 19 kills. Paige Sheehan had 18 assists for the Vikings and Chloe Fortuna led them in digs with 13.
The loss dropped North Branch to 2-1 on the year and improved Monti’s record to 2-0, now 3-0 after a late-week win over Cambridge-Isanti.
“We learned a lot in that second set that we need to be a bit more mentally tough, keep loose and continue to do our jobs,” Selbitschka said. “We really learned that when the going gets tough, when need to step it up another level.”
North Branch 3, Big Lake 2
The going did get a lot more tough in the Vikings’ next game against Big Lake, as the Hornets nabbed the first set 25-21, and looked like they’d send NB to their second straight loss when they won the second set 25-19. But, North Branch applied some of the lessons they learned the night prior and didn’t stop.
They edged Big Lake in the third set 25-22 to stave off a loss. In the fourth set, they took every bit of momentum away from the Hornets when they absolutely clobbered them 25-9. Holding a team to single digits in rally scoring volleyball is a difficult task.
In the fifth set, North Banch carried their great play over, winning 15-12 and securing the epic comeback win.
“They were just controlling us, but with the pressure we put on in the last three games, we just took over,” Selbitschka explained. “Despite being down, the positivity level was 10-fold over the Monticello game. Our communication improved, our ball control improved and we attacked more. We kept pushing instead of just hoping for an error on the other side.”
One thing that did seem to spark the Vikings, as well, was Leah Kent coming in as a sub and staying in during the second set.
It wasn’t a debut for Kent, as she’s an ace server for the Vikings and has done a lo of that this year for the Vikings, but she made an immediate impact on the offense and defense when she came in for good. She was third on the team in kills with seven, added four aces and was third with 12 digs, showing she is a valuable asset to the team now and in the future.
“Leah has worked hard at practice to be a part of the scene up here,” Selbitschka said. “She has shown a lot of improvement at practice and the opportunity came earlier than expected for her. She did a great job of ball placement and controlled passes fairly well, which put us into an offensive mode we didn’t previously have in the match. She earned that time and she did well enough to not change anything. She showed what she’s got and it’s fun to see the kids step up.”
Outside of Kent, the offense was very balanced, which helped NB in their battle back. Peaslee had 11 kills, Irons had eight and Maddie Helin and Sheehan both added seven with Kent. Sheehan also had 29 assists and three aces. Helin led the girls with 22 digs, and Fortuna had 14. Peaslee stocked up five big blocks on defense, as well.
North Branch took on conference and county rival Chisago Lakes on Wednesday, October 27 after the Press went to print. It’s the season opener for Chisago Lakes, as their school was shut down for two weeks due to COVID-19 positives.
They’ll take on Princeton tonight, October 29 at home and Cambridge-Isanti on Monday, November 2.
The season is teetering a little bit, though, as North Branch recently moved their whole district to a hybrid model. If there’s any point when they have to go to a full distance learning model for a period of time, athletics are put on hold. The district is hoping the hybrid model is the only step they’ll have to take.