October 15, 2009 at 8:43 a.m.

Wildcats crowned in Chisago County battle

Wildcats crowned in Chisago County battle
Wildcats crowned in Chisago County battle

Entering the last two weeks of the season, the Chisago Lakes volleyball team was trying to salvage a winning record from a season that so far has been tough. After going a combined 37-18 in the last two years, including 16-4 in the tough North Suburban Conference, the Wildcats had struggled to a 4-7 record on the year, which included a 3-6 mark in the conference.

With four games in just over a week's span, the 'Cats had one last gasp to bring their season record over .500 and earn a better seed in the sectional tournament.

Chisago Lakes 3, Cambridge-Isanti 1

The four-game stretch started off bright for the 'Cats. After coming out sluggish against the Bluejackets in the first set of their non-conference match, Chisago Lakes rebounded from one loss for three straight wins against C-I.

The best thing that came from the match was the way the girls progressively got more dominant as the match wore on. After dropping the first set 25-22, they won the second set by their own 25-22 score. In the third set, which is the most important once the first two sets have been split, the 'Cats started making less mistakes and hitting more precise shots. The game ended in a 25-19 win for Chisago Lakes.

In the fourth set, the 'Cats put the nail in coffin early as they sped to a big lead and never looked back en route to a 25-13 win.

Chisago Lakes 3, North Branch 1

The Wildcats kept their roll going when they traveled to North Branch last week for a Chisago County showdown. Although neither team is at the top of the conference this year, the two teams still bring out some of the best volleyball in each other because of their tradition together and their close proximity.

North Branch came out firing, and just like they had in the first game of this stretch, the Wildcats were just a step behind in the first set. Emily Trunk had her passes going and Rachel Barg and Ashley King controlled a lot of the action on the outside for the Vikings.

Chisago Lakes shot themselves in the foot more than once in the first set, committing too many errors against the hungry Vikings team, which was 3-5 in conference play heading into the match. Although the Wildcats drew close in the end, the Vikings ended the first set by the score of 25-22.

With the kinks worked out, Chisago Lakes started working together a bit better starting in the second set. Behind Rachel Nelson, Zoe Hansen and Courtney Fautsch, the ball started to hit the floor at a quicker pace on the North Branch side. Even with junior libero Morgan Leadens patrolling the back row, North Branch struggled to return some of the cannon-armed spikes from the green-and-black crew on the opposite side.

Not only did the Wildcats win the second set in convincing fashion, finishing the Vikings off 25-21, they did the same in the third set. Using the same strategy and executing without errors, the Wildcats took another set off the Vikings 25-21.

The home team wouldn't go quietly, however, in the fourth set. With their backs against the wall, the Vikings took the early lead in the set and held it throughout most of the game. At 20-16, it looked like the Vikings would be able to stave off the Wildcats and force a fifth game in the cross county rivalry. The Wildcats had a separate idea though, and they ran off nine straight points to end the match and take the set 25-20.

Forest Lake 3, Chisago Lakes 0

The Wildcats good fortune ran out in a non-conference tussle with local rival Forest Lake.

The Rangers have always had a strong volleyball team, and this year is no different, as the maroon-and-gold clad girls were sporting an 11-5 record heading into the match.

The Wildcats had a huge problem on their hands when they started slow against the Rangers, and they never really recovered to challenge the second place team from the Suburban East Conference. In the first set, Forest Lake breezed to a 25-17 win, and the worst part for the Wildcats was that was the closest they were going to get.

In the second set, Flake pounded Chisago Lakes, winning 25-13. The Rangers finished off the sweep with another relatively easy 25-17 victory in the third set.

Although the loss ensured that the Wildcats wouldn't be able to finish at .500 for the season, it was still only a non-conference loss, and they still had some business to take care of the next day when they closed out their NSC schedule with a match against Fridley.

Fridley 3, Chisago Lakes 1

Although the win looks fairly easy at first glance for the Tigers, the Wildcats made Fridley work for their win.

Too many misfires and a hot start by Fridley equaled a pretty lopsided loss in the first set. The Wildcats kept the match close until it hit double digits. Fridley started to pull away and score points in bunches while Chisago Lakes couldn't string together more than one or two points at a time.

The second set was really the turning point in the match. The two squads played an evenly matched set, going back and forth for most of the early stages. In the end, Fridley took a 24-23 lead and looked poised to go up 2-0 in the set column. The Wildcats battled back to grab the next two points, however, and take their own 25-24 lead with the serve and match point. Fridley was able to tie the match back up at 25's, but Chisago Lakes remained in the driver's seat, getting to match point for the next three points.

Fridley continuously staved off elimination until they finally took their own lead at 29-28. A CL miscue led to the deciding point in the second set, and it seemed as though the Wildcats were cruising to a two-game losing streak to end their regular season.

Even with the gut-wrenching loss in the second set, the Wildcats came out sharp in the third set, keeping the Tigers on the defensive and taking their turns scoring points in bunches. They never allowed Fridley to draw close to them as they dominated the set 25-16.

With the commanding win, it looked as if the Wildcats had plenty of life left in them for their last few sets of the season, but Fridley had other intentions. They sped out to an 8-1 lead over the Wildcats and kept them at bay until they wrapped up the game 25-16. After going down by seven early, the 'Cats were never able to get within four points again for the rest of the match.


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