September 12, 2003 at 10:12 a.m.
Chisago Lakes 1
Like always, the match-up had it all. Emotion, strategy, skill, and suspense, the normal ingredients every time Chisago Lakes and North Branch meet on the volleyball court.
Last Thursday, the emotions were flying so out of control that both teams had trouble out of the gates. However, the game settled down and the suspense heated up as the Vikings walked away with a 3-1 win. A very close 3-1 win.
Early in the game, both the ‘Cats and Vikings struggled getting into a flow. The match flip-flopped back and forth until a Chisago Lakes timeout in the first game sparked the Wildcats. The extra push propelled Chisago Lakes to a 25-22 opening win.
But the winds of change were already blowing. The Wildcats had a weakness and the Vikings were about to exploit it.
Earlier in the week, Amber Maher, one of three returning all-conference players, had sprained her ankle. The senior was in the line-up but hurting, and North Branch knew it.
Slowly, the Vikings picked up stream, picking apart the holes in the Chisago defense. To make matters worse for the Wildcats, North Branch was sticking almost every serve they sent across the net. The Vikings finished the game missing just seven out of 101 serves.
“It was back and forth. Neither team played very well at the beginning, there was a lot of errors right away,” remarked North Branch volleyball head coach Jim VanEerden. “Our serves were the key. Consistent serves helped us settle down and we really hung together as a team.”
“Any game could’ve gone either way,” commented Chisago Lakes head coach Nicole DeVries. “The key to our success is our passing and we passed well, but our blocking killed us. That was our weakness. With Amber hurt, they (North Branch) were hitting from that side and Amber just couldn’t get there. Even with that, there was no point in the game where I thought any team would pull away. It was close the entire game.”
How close? North Branch battled back to even the game 1-1 with a 25-21 win, followed by a 28-26 win to take the lead. Fatigued and hurting, the Wildcats couldn’t stop the bleeding.
“What killed us was our blocking,” said DeVries. “I was disappointed with the loss. I though we were the better team and I think if we meet in sections, we can beat them. We were playing with one of our better players at 25 percent. They beat us fair and square but that hurt us.”
“We knew that she (Amber Maher) couldn’t move very well,” said VanEerden. “She’s still a great passer but when we served, we served at her a little bit because we knew she wasn’t as quick as she normally is. She just couldn’t get there. We also didn’t put a blocker in front of her, knowing she couldn’t get up with that injured ankle.”
North Branch continued to hold the advantage when play reached the fourth game. Up front, Jenny Anderson and Kaity Vichorek controlled play at the net and the Vikings serving touch continued. On the other side of the net, the Wildcats played well but made too many mistakes, falling 25-20, giving North Branch the three games to one win.
“I was proud of my girls, especially since Amber had sprained her ankle,” remarked DeVries. “Kari wasn’t really in a groove right away and as a team we had some unforced errors, but overall I’m happy with the way we played.” “They (North Branch) don’t have a lot of guns. I think we beat ourselves to be honest. North Branch is a good team but I think we can beat them,” said DeVries. “It’s a rivalry and they’re always going to be ready against us. We just need to finish games when we have a chance. We didn’t do that.”
“I was proud of how our team hung together,” mentioned VanEerden. “It was a roller coaster match between two very even teams. I feel we gave ourselves a chance to win by serving exceptionally well. Middle blocker Jenny Anderson made her presence known with seven blocks. She forced Chisago to commit several errors because they had to adjust their shots.”
The win was the second of the season for North Branch, evening their record at 2-2. Meanwhile, Chisago Lakes fell to 1-3.
Chisago Lakes 25, North Branch 22
North Branch 25, Chisago Lakes 21
North Branch 28, Chisago Lakes 26
North Branch 25, Chisago Lakes 20
North Branch statistics:
Jenny Anderson: 11 kills
Kaity Vichorek: 8 kills