September 9, 2010 at 9:56 a.m.
In the season opener of the 2010 season, the North Branch volleyball team went down to the wire with non-conference rival Cambridge-Isanti.
The Bluejackets traveled to North Branch to take on the Vikings in what is always an important Section 7AAA match up.
North Branch drew first blood in the match, winning the set 25-19. But, it was set to be a long night ahead. The Jackets won the second set 25-16 to even the series at one, and things just kept going longer.
In the third set, North Branch won 25-23 in an enthralling set, but facing defeat, C-I battled back to win the fourth set 25-22 and send the match to a fifth set.
North Branch stayed ahead by just a little bit the whole way through and they came away with a 15-13 win in the set that also earned them the match win.
"I was pleased to see our consistency in serve receive passing," Head Coach Kari Francis said. "The Cambridge outside hitters needed to be contained, and when they were, we won the set."
Francis pointed at senior libero Morgan Leadens and junior outside hitter Rachel Barg as the keys to that containment. "They led us during the entire night in the back row passing and playing defense," Francis said. "Our defense and serve receive are going to be keys to our overall success this year."
On the night, sophomore middle hitter Jessica Merchant led the Vikings with 13 kills and Barg had 11.
North Branch 3, Princeton 0
As close and exciting as the Vikings' win over Cambridge-Isanti was, their match against Princeton was just as equally predictable and ordinary.
"From the beginning, we took charge of the game from the serving line," Francis pointed out. "As a team, we hit 10 aces on the night and Morgan Leadens led the way with four. We just dominated all facets of the game."
In the first set, Princeton didn't even sniff double digits, falling to North Branch 25-7. In the second, things didn't get much tougher for North Branch as they cruised to a 25-12 victory, and with it were able to test out some new rotations and different girls in the third set.
Although it got closer because of late-game subs, North Branch completed the sweep with a 25-18 victory over the Tigers.
Barg and Jessica Lemmerman took over the game offensively for North Branch. They, along with the middle, also stymied any Princeton attack with effective blocks and deflections. On the night, North Branch had six kill blocks. "It was reassuring to see the girls go out and take care of business," Francis noted. "We were able to see our depth as many players were able to get into the match and contribute to the win."
That quickly, however, North Branch will be moving into their conference play this week. They took on 0-2 Benilde-St. Margaret's on Tuesday, Sept. 7, and they travel to 1-2 St. Francis tonight.
Although the two teams have a combined 1-4 record, none of the losses are in conference and have been against top tier teams. "They will both be tests for us," Francis said. "They are both North Suburban opponents, but St. Francis is also a section opponent."