October 20, 2011 at 9:38 a.m.

Despite first set loss, North Branch battles back to beat CL

Despite first set loss, North Branch battles back to beat CL
Despite first set loss, North Branch battles back to beat CL

North Branch 3, Chisago Lakes 1

The intense rivalry between North Branch and Chisago Lakes took to the volleyball courts last week, and the Vikings were able to reclaim county bragging rights for a bit.

Playing at home on homecoming week, the Wildcats came out jazzed up and simply outworked the Vikings in the first set. Despite an early 7-4 lead for North Branch, Chisago Lakes kept the match close and actually took a 12-11 lead behind some pinpoint Sydney Powell serves.

North Branch junior Emily Trunk put a stop to the CL run with an acrobatic sliding play to tie the match at 12. The Wildcats retook the lead and really built some momentum on a long rally that involved two separate diving digs by the Wildcats.

Chisago Lakes nearly put the nail in the coffin when they went up 19-15 on a ball that was put over and spun on the top of the net for what seemed like an enternity. By the time it stopped, the ball fell to North Branch's side and no Vikings were able to get to it.

Although North Branch was able to draw close at 22-21, two straight quality serves by senior Zoe Hansen put Chisago Lakes up 24-21 and a monster spike by Powell finished the set off in favor of the Wildcats.

In the second set, North Branch got more aggressive with their offense and despite some solid defense by the 'Cats, North Branch took an early 8-3 lead on a nice tip by Trunk and some quality serving by Jessica Lemmerman.

Powell broke the North Branch dominance and the Wildcats were able to battle back and tie the set at 10 with the work of Powell and fellow sophomore Tori Kildow.

The Wildcats took the lead at 12-11, but then began to unravel defensively. North Branch ran off 10 of the next 12 points to take a commanding 21-14 lead.

After a few back-and-forths between the teams, North Branch's Jessica Merchant finished the 'Cats off with three straight points on a variety of shots.

In the third set, the two teams couldn't separate from each other. The biggest lead until the end of the set was three points.

The 'Cats actually had a late 19-18 lead in the set, but North Branch toughened up and scored seven of the last eight points to win 25-20.

Despite a quick 3-0 lead in the fifth set, Chisago Lakes couldn't hold it as North Branch scored the next five points to take a 5-3 lead. After that, the set played out much like the third one. No team was able to differentiate from the other and nobody even led by more than two points.

Even with North Branch drawing to a close at 24-21, the Wildcats were able to stave off the loss for a few more points, but they eventually fell 25-22 and North Branch completed their comeback.

"It is always a great win against a local rival in Chisago Lakes," North Branch Head Coach Hayley Lang said. "Chisago is always a great team who is usually scrappy."

But, Chisago Lakes' Achilles heel during the match was their serving. They put too many balls into the net and gave North Branch too many free points. Lang also noted that it took the Vikings a while to get going but they really started to flow as a team in the second set.

Rachel Barg led the Vikings with 11 kills and Merchant and Courtney Selbitschka each had 10 kills.

For Chisago Lakes, Powell had 18 kills and three aces. Bryanna Fernstrom and Hansen each had six kills for CL. Nicole Johnson had 35 assists.

In other games for the teams:

North Branch 3, Irondale 0

The Vikes swept through Irondale without much problem after their big win over Chisago Lakes.

They came out guns ablazing in the first set, downing the Knights 25-10 without much problem.

Although Irondale put up more of a resistance in the second set, North Branch was still able to top the Knights 25-23, relying mostly on the Knights' stingy defense to win the match.

North Branch closed out the sweep with a 25-16 win in the third set.

"This was another great win for us on the road. After a long week, the gals played well, and played unbelievable defense," Head Coach Hayley Lang said. "Our coaching staff was extremely happy with our defensive players and our speed in transition. We also continue to see our players serve better every match, which is something we've been intending to do. It does not always happen, but our serve percentage is so vital to our matches down the road."

Chisago Lakes 3, Robbinsdale Cooper 0

The Wildcats rebounded nicely from their loss to rival North Branch with a big win over North Suburban Conference foe Robbinsdale Cooper.

The Wildcats breezed past Cooper at home with a 25-13, 25-20, 25-12 three-set victory to jump back to .500 at 12-12.

Powell, Bryanna Fernstrom and Johnson were stars for Chisago Lakes on the night. Powell had 15 kills, Fernstrom had eight kills and two aces and Johnson had six kills, four aces, three blocks and 31 assists in a superb all around performance.


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