October 27, 2005 at 7:39 a.m.
The first game was even at 5-5 until Hibbing made a run to take an 11-5 lead. They gradually expanded that lead to 20-9. At that point, the Vikings had been completely outplayed and it looked like the fans might get home in time to watch Lost.
The Bluejackets seemed to be too good to beat. When North Branch had a good hit, Hibbing was always there to dig it out. When Hibbing had its chance, the ball hit the floor before the Vikings could react. The Bluejackets seemed too athletic for the locals to put up much of a fight.
However, down by 11 points, head Coach Kari Francis’ team started to cover the floor better and the momentum started to swing North Branch’s way. By the end of the first game the Vikings had closed the gap to eight points and seemed to be playing better. Although Hibbing won the game 25-17, North Branch was showing some life.
Game two was even at seven when the Vikings started to pull away. Soon, they’d turned a 12-10 advantage into a 15-10 and then 18-10 lead. Hibbing made a strong comeback and narrowed the margin to four. The 18-14 lead grew when Jill Vanden Heuvel tipped the ball by two Hibbing blockers for a 19-14 lead. Hibbing tried to come back, but Megan Ranger showed her athleticism by hitting winners from all over the court. The end of this game was characterized by many long rallies, ended by powerful Ranger (Viking Megan Ranger, not Iron Ranger) hits.
The points were longer in game three than they had been in the first game. The Vikings scored in a wider variety of ways than they had in game two. Highlights for the Viking fans included more hits from Ranger and Kaia Nyberg and a running one-handed dig by Randi Zentner. But, the result was a Hibbing 25-15 win.
The Vikings trailed 2-0 in game four, when Kacie Ramberg hit a crosscourt spike to reduce the Hibbing lead to a single point. Down 7-2, the Vikings scored next off a Cori Fairbanks set and a Nyberg hit. The Hibbing lead stayed about four until a Hibbing carry and a Ramberg hit narrowed the deficit to 12-10. Again, Hibbing built up and maintained a three to five point advantage until Megan Scherer took a set from Fairbanks and hit it past three Hibbing defenders to make the score 18-16.
Hibbing started to pull away again and coach Francis took a time out. Down 23-19, North Branch took advantage of a long hit by Hibbing, a Nyberg block and another Ranger blast to close the gap to one, 23-22.
The Bluejackets took a time out and managed to win the last two points, and the match, three games to one.
The two teams could meet again in the Section 7AAA playoffs. The Bluejackets are the top-seeded team in the North Sub-section and the Vikings have the third seed in the South. The first playoff match for North Branch was scheduled for Wednesday, October 26.
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