October 17, 2003 at 10:54 a.m.
North Branch 1
The North Branch volleyball team had St. Michael-Albertville right where they wanted them, or so they thought. At home in front of a large and local crowd, the Vikings were ready to hand the Knights their first conference loss of the season and keep their title hopes alive in the process. For one game, everything was perfect.
The Vikings matched the Knights shot for shot in game one before taking control late en route to a 25-21 win. North Branch was two games away from stealing the upset.
However, St. Michael was 18-1 for a reason, and in game two, the tide turned drastically. The Knights defense set the tone, stealing the momentum back with a 25-20 win in game two to even the match. Shell-shocked, North Branch was never able to respond.
St. Michael rolled in game three, 25-15 before taking the match with a 25-23 win in game four.
“We gave St. Michael a run by winning the first game but just couldn’t bring it all together to win any more,” replied Jim VanEerden, North Branch volleyball head coach. “They weren’t that tall, but they have some great athletes who play defense very well. I can see why their record is so good at 19-1.”
Included in that 19-1 record for the Knights is an 8-0 conference mark, more than enough to clinch the Rum River title. Meanwhile, the loss dropped the Vikings mark to 6-2 in conference play, putting them in a three way tie with Mora and Chisago Lakes for second.
Despite the loss, Rachel Brown starred on the court for North Branch, finishing with 10 kills and six blocks. Jenny Anderson added seven kills and six blocks.
North Branch 25, STMA 21
STMA 25, North Branch 20
STMA 25, North Branch 15
STMA 25, North Branch 23
North Branch 3
With the shot of a conference title behind them, the Vikings went into last Thursday’s game with Princeton with a new goal, finishing second.
Aided by an emotion-filled senior night, North Branch quickly got back to their winning ways by dominating the Tigers three games to none.
The Vikings got the crowd involved early with a 25-19 win in game one. Far from finished, North Branch followed that up with a 25-12 win in game two before completing the sweep with a 25-17 win in game three. Short, sweet, and to the point. That’s just the way the Vikings like it.
“That was a great night for the team,” mentioned VanEerden. “The parents and fans have been so supportive all year long and it was great to pay tribute to them and the seniors.”
One of those seniors, Abby Fairbanks, grabbed the spotlight with five aces and 27 setting assists. Fairbanks was also a perfect 22 for 22 in serving. Junior Mandy Warzala also was singled out for her performance, finishing with four kills.
The Vikings now move into their final week of the regular season with two more games on the schedule. North Branch finishes up their conference schedule with Pine City on Tuesday before traveling to Hibbing on Wednesday.
North Branch 25, Princeton 19
North Branch 25, Princeton 12
North Branch 25, Princeton 17