September 15, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.
The Vikings opened their home schedule with a rowdy crowd, and they didn't disappoint the red and white clad fans who turned out to support them.
Facing the St. Louis Park Orioles, who were 3-7 last year in the North Suburban Conference, and 0-3 so far this year, North Branch implemented their attack early, and put relentless pressure on the overmatched Orioles.
"Our players really went after St. Louis Park," Head Coach Hayley Lang said. "We really felt comfortable with the pace of the game."
In the first game, St. Louis Park struggled to get into double digits even as their serve receiving was a constant struggle. The free shots gave North Branch a chance to run some plays that they hadn't yet this year and get some extra work in with a commanding lead.
In the second set, St. Louis Park actually took an early lead and started executing better while North Branch started to make some mental mistakes on their side. Down 10-6, North Branch made a few adjustments and went on a big run to pull ahead.
The Vikings ended up winning the set 25-16 as they went on a 19-6 run to end the set.
The third set was much like the first, as North Branch raced out to a quick and dominating lead. They never were really threatened the rest of the set. It was 24-10 when St. Louis Park rattled off six consecutive points to make the set seem closer than it really was.
"We were so happy to have our home opener be a win," Lang explained after the victory.
Lang went on to point out that Jessica Merchant had a great night with eight blocks and a couple of key assists. "Our hitting and serve receive passing was what pushed us in the match," Lang said.
North Branch 3, Benilde-St. Margaret's 0
The Vikings avenged last year's early season loss to the Red Knights in a big way. With the match at BSM's home court in St. Louis Park, North Branch set another frenzied pace, and Benilde couldn't keep up.
Last year, it was North Branch on the other side of the coin, as Benilde traveled up to NB high school and bested the Vikings 3-1 en route to a 7-3 conference record, which put them in third in the North Suburban. This time, the Vikings got their victory on rival turf.
"What a great win on the road," Lang exlaimed after the win. "We have been feeling pretty good about the offense we have been running."
That offense propelled the Vikings to a quick and relatively easy victory in the first set, winning 25-11.
In the second game, Benilde used a mix of tips and roll shots to neutralize North Branch's height advantage, but it didn't take long for the savvy Vikigns to catch on. They managed to come from behind and take the second set 25-20 after an early scare.
In the third set, there wasn't anything the Red Knights could offer to North Branch, and they went down with a whimper as the Vikings dominated the set 25-13.
Merchant led the team in kills on the night with 11 of them, junior Tayler Fertig added eight from the middle, Rachel Barg and Jessica Lemmerman had six each and Emily Trunk, who does most of the setting, even cam through with five kills on the night.
The Vikings will host their annual North Branch Tournament this weekend at the high school. Eight teams, including Minneapolis South, Roseville, St. Francis, Esko, Warroad, Moose Lake and Sartell will be packed in the gym starting at 9 a.m.
The tourney kicks off with a NSC match up between North Branch and St. Francis.