November 7, 2019 at 2:31 p.m.
The Vikings proved last year that the second time was the charm when they won the state championship in Class AA after qualifying, but they are hoping to follow the same charmed path this season at the state tournament.
Their road to qualifying started against Duluth Denfeld and Duluth Marshall, and it was two quick sweeps for the Vikings.
But, the competition got a little tougher once the Vikings got into the final four. They drew Hermantown, who was 17-8 on the year heading into the match up, on Wednesday, October 30.
Despite the Hawks nice looking record, the Vikings still made quick work of them, winning 25-18, 25-15 and 25-18. The Vikings’ pressure offense caused Hermantown to make a lot of unforced errors, and when the Hawks did get it back over the net cleanly, the Vikings defense was there for the most part to clean it up and get back on the offensive.
The Vikings leaned on a fairly balanced attack, something that they’ll need once they are playing in the state tournament.
Cianna Selbitscka had 13 kills to lead the Vikings, but Paige Peaslee and Reagan Irons each had six and Haley Hadrava had five.
Paige Sheehan had her typical day as the setter, with 37 assists, five blocks, 14 digs and three aces. Selbitsckha and Irons also contributed on the defensive side, with Selbitschka digging out 27 Hawk hits and stuffing five blocks, while Irons had 11 blocks from her middle block position.
North Branch 3, Proctor 0
The Vikings had their toughest test of the section, taking on the 24-2 Proctor Rails on Saturday, November 2 in Cloquet.
The Rails had beaten Esko, who was 23-6 to get to the championship game, so they figured to put up a stout fight.
The Vikings played a great game though, winning 25-21, 25-18, 25-23 to finish their second straight clean sweep through sectional play (they also went 12-0 in sets last year in their four games).
Selbitschka stepped up her offensive game a bit in the match, hitting 16 kills down, but her supporting cast also stepped up on offense. Hadrava had nine kills, Peaslee had seven and Irons had five. Sheehan had 34 assists and her serves proved to be problematic for the Rails, as she had three aces.
“It was one heck of a game against Proctor, they gave us a handful!” Head Coach Mike Selbitschka said.
The win set off another celebration for the Vikings, as they earned their trip to state. They’ll begin their journey as the third seed and take on unseeded Pequot Lakes in the first round. PL was 22-5 on the year and is making just their second trip to the state tournament in school history.
The match up is on Thursday, November 7 at 7 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center. Win or lose, the Vikings will play again on Friday, November 8, but the time depends on the result of first round. If they win, they’ll guarantee themselves a match on Saturday, November 10, also, as they’d be playing in either the state title game or the third place game.
“The girls played fairly well in sections, but I still think we have our best to come (hopefully)! We have continued to work on some things we need to improve on and hopefully it all comes together this week,” Selbitschka said. “As for Pequot Lakes, I expect a battle to the end! This is state and teams seem to bring out their best while here. They are new to this, so that might give us an advantage. Getting the three seed helps us in focusing on what we can do better, and not worrying about a top seed. We were the four seed last year when we won the title, so we know anything can happen!”