The North Branch Vikings clinched their first-ever Mississippi 8 conference championship last week with an undefeated record, but the championship clinching match took a little more effort than expected.
The Monticello Magic pushed the Vikings to their limit, forcing a deciding fifth set before North Branch was able to officially celebrate their victory. The final scores were 25-11, 25-18, 24-26, 22-25, 15-7.
Cianna Selbitschka once again came up big, collecting 29 kills. Defensively, Macy Brodin racked up 27 digs to lead the way.
Earlier in the week, North Branch survived a pesky Andover squad who took the Vikings to a fourth set before North Branch picked up the wins. The final scores for the match were 25-23, 24-26, 25-19, 25-12.
Selbitschka overcame a (thankfully) minor knee issue to come through with 22 kills in the match. Setter Paige Sheehan utilized her dumps effectively for six kills while adding 37 assists.
The following night, on Tuesday, Oct. 1, North Branch had an easier time dispensing of Elk River, winning 3-0 by scores of 25-20, 25-23, 25-19.
The Vikings got back on the winning path last week, topping the Hibbing Bluejackets 40-19 at Hibbing.
The Vikings used a three-touchdown second quarter to pull away from Hibbing on rushing scores from Koby Chouinard and Austin Sonnek and a touchdown pass from Chouinard to Josua Hindt, giving North Branch a 26-6 halftime lead. The two teams would alternate touchdowns in the second half, with Daniel Hoveland first getting on the scoreboard, followed by another Chouinard to Hindt pass for a score to seal the deal.
North Branch will now take on section foe Duluth Denfeld for their home finale this Friday, Oct. 11.
What other way could the “silly season” end but for North Branch’s opening team section match to take three days to complete? After the originally scheduled date of last Tuesday, Oct. 1, got rained out before it even started, the match was rescheduled for the following day only to have rain again postpone play even though they were able to move indoors to complete some of the matches.
Finally, on Thursday, Oct. 3, the weather cooperated enough to finish things off, which unfortunately resulted in a 5-2 Vikings defeat. Chloe Moline at singles and the doubles team of Sophie Smith and Hollie Ohnsorg were the two winning matches for North Branch.
The individual tournament was set to begin on Tuesday, Oct. 8, with two individuals and two doubles teams taking the court for the Vikings.
The Vikings wrapped up their regular season with a pair of games, with the team tying Big Lake and falling to Forest Lake.
In the game against Big Lake, 8th-grader Ava Mohs picked up her first varsity goal, with Paige Bauer adding the other.
Against Forest Lake, the cold, windy and wet weather wreaked havoc on both teams and ultimately helped decide the game. After Forest Lake took a 1-0 lead on a penalty kick, North Branch got a lucky break as the winds blew a high, arcing kick right into the net out of reach of the Forest Lake goalie. Later in the first half, Paige Bauer put the Vikings up 2-1 going into the second half, where it would be the Vikings’ turn to feel the misfortune of the weather.
Forest Lake tied the game up in the second half, and it looked like the game would be headed into overtime. However, with close to two minutes remaining, a wet ball squirted away from the North Branch goalie, crossing the end line for a corner kick. That kick was connected for the go-ahead goal and North Branch didn’t have enough time to respond, leading to the defeat.
The girls team received the #13 seed for the Section 7A playoffs and will face North Lakes Academy on Thursday, Oct. 10.
North Branch finished off their regular season with a trio of games last week, going an even 1-1-1 for the week.
The week started on a sour note as the Vikings got shut out by Minneapolis Roosevelt 4-0. Next came the tie, which was against PACT Charter School by a score of 2-2.
In that game, the Vikings took a 1-0 lead into halftime, but PACT rallied with two goals in the second half to produce the tie after neither team scored in overtime. Scoring for the Vikings were Aidan Kramer and Mason Maroschek.
North Branch finished their regular season on a high note with a 3-0 shut-out win over Minneapolis Patrick Henry. All of the scoring in that game came in the second half, with Justin Ramos, George Blackwell and Noah Schwartzrock picking up the Viking goals.
For the Section 7A playoffs, North Branch received the #13 seed and will play at Duluth Denfeld on Thursday, Oct. 10.
North Branch faced sloppy conditions at the Swain Meet in Duluth on Saturday, Oct. 5, with both teams finishing at the bottom of the huge meet’s team results.
For the boys, Carson Klein finished in 77th place, with Cora Hudella coming in 43rd for the girls.