The mood in the North Branch High School gym on Tuesday, Nov. 17 was very emotional. Not only were the Vikings bidding farewell to their seniors with a tear-filled pregame ceremony, but speculation was that this very well might be the last game of the season, period, as Minnesota Governor Tim Walz was rumored to be immediately putting a halt to high school sports the following night.
On the court, the Vikings simply could not shake those down-trodden emotions, playing uncharacteristically flat in a 3-0 loss to Big Lake by scores of 15-25, 19-25, 23-25. The same offensive leaders were in play as Paige Peaslee, playing a new outside hitter position, and Reagan Irons, playing her typical middle hitter position, each recorded eight kills to lead the team. But that was far from enough as an upbeat Hornet team took advantage of the emotionally let-down Vikings for just their second win of the season.
The loss was the third straight for the Vikings as the team fell to Becker 3-2 the night before. In that loss, North Branch went down two sets to zero before rallying to tie it up at 2-2, but then falling in the fifth set 15-13. The Vikings had four players with double-digit kills as Peaslee led the team with 15, setter Paige Sheehan adding 11, and Irons and Lindsey Bunes earning 10 each. Also of note was Sheehan collecting 41 set assists, which brought her career total to 2,000.
As it turned out, North Branch was able to avoid having their season end on a three-game losing streak as Walz’s Executive Order didn’t take effect until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20, meaning Activities Director Andrea Schultz was given the opportunity to make a last-minute schedule addition of Buffalo on Thursday night.
The Vikings took full advantage of the stay of execution, topping the Bison 3-1 by scores of 22-25, 25-18, 29-27, 25-23. The win allowed the team to end on a positive note and a 9-4 season record.
The Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets weren’t so lucky. As the team’s lineup was gradually getting depleted, the team was forced to cancel all three of their scheduled matches for the week. They were, however, hoping to get three last matches in just before Thanksgiving, but that was before the youth sports “pause” nixed those plans.
C-I’s final match wound up being their 3-0 home win over Big Lake on Nov. 10, giving the team a final season record of 6-2.
Bombers sweep finale
While the Bombers faced many cancellations throughout the season, they were able to get one final match in on Thursday, Nov. 19, sweeping Hinckley-Finlayson 3-0. The two teams’ match the previous Monday was canceled, as was what would have been Braham’s final regular season match, a rescheduled meeting with Rush City. Braham ends their season with a 5-4 record.