ST. PAUL -- Defending Class 2A champion and No. 3 seed North Branch Vikings showed that experience matters beating the Pequot Lakes Patriots in straight sets Thursday, Nov. 7, in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals.
“We knew we had to slow down their middles,” Vikings head coach Mike Selbitschka said. “And I think we accomplished that.”
The Patriots put up a good fight in the first, falling 25-20. After falling behind 15-9, Pequot Lakes mounted a rally with Phoebe Glenn serving to make it 15-13 then cut the Vikings lead down to 18-17, but after a North Branch timeout the Vikings shut the door to take a 1-0 lead.
North Branch did a good job of keeping the Patriots on their heels in the service game. In the second set, with Kylie Kline serving, the Vikings started on a 13-0 run that left the Patriots — who are playing in their first state tournament in 25 years — stunned.
“I was really proud with how we played the first set,” Patriots head coach Chris Ganley said. “I think the second set got tough for us as they got a little more aggressive with their serves and I think there is something to us not being here in 25 years and our nerves kind of got to us.”
The Vikings won the second set 25-11.
“Our serve was consistent and tough,” Selbitschka said of the second set. “We just kept them to a system and knew they were trying to get it to their middles and we had a nice block that slowed them down.”
Ganley felt some nerves from her team all game. The Patriots committed 12 receiving errors while the experienced Vikings committed only five.
“It’s hard to work them,” Ganley said of her team’s nerves. “Because you don’t have another warm up to work them off, so you just try to it during the game.”
The Patriots settled in a little bit in the third set and held a slim 11-10 lead. The Vikings responded by ending the set on a 15-7 run to sweep the match and advance to the state semifinals.
Senior outside hitter Cianna Selbitschka proved to be too much for the Patriots defense and notched 21 kills. However, Ganley was excited for her girls to play against someone who is in consideration for Ms. Volleyball in the state of Minnesota.
“We don’t see North Branch during the season,” Ganley said. “So you come in against a hitter like that, you just kind of have to learn as you go. We had very little film on them. So we enjoyed playing her and respect her completely. It’s no wonder she is up for Ms. Volleyball.”
Junior middle hitter Kate Bolz-Andolshek led the Patriots in kills with eight. She felt playing in a big venue like the Xcel Energy Center took some getting used to.
“Walking in it’s just a totally different atmosphere,” Bolz-Andolshek said. “New light, new court, more people, it’s just so exciting. The lights and surroundings are just so much different than your regular gym.”
Cianna Selbitschka is playing in her fourth state tournament so, unlike Pequot Lakes’ wide eyes upon entering Xcel Energy Center, for her it was just business as usual.
“I came in today and since I have been here for three other years, I came into today not really nervous,” she said.
Junior setter Paige Sheehan tallied 33 set assists to help pace the Vikings offense as well.
Patriots senior libero Mariah Rickard was tasked with the responsibility to try and dig up a lot of Selbitschka’s powerful hits. Rickard did notch double-digit digs, but was the only Patriot to sniff double digits.
“I enjoy those experiences,” Rickard said. “It's great to see every new hitter because it just opens up new doors. And I am willing to put up a fight for every ball.”
Pequot Lakes gets a clean slate Friday, Nov. 8, as they play No. 2 seed Marshall, which fell 3-1 to unseeded Belle Plaine.
“The thing is for us to play competition like this. I know it’s hard for our seniors because they have had a great run and they come into state and they are just so happy we did this,” Ganley said. “But for younger plays like Kate (Bolz-Andolshek) it gives them a chance to play competition we don’t see being farther north. So it kind of sets in for them that this is where they need to be for next year.”
North Branch 25 25 25
Pequot Lakes 20 11 18
Pequot Lakes statistics
Rita Ganley 5 set assists, 3 digs
Mirjana Ganley 2 kills, 1 set assist, 8 digs, 1 block
Maddy Morrison 1 set assist, 1 block
Greta Harmala 3 set assists
Catherine Ganley 1 dig
Ella Pfeiffer 2 ace serves, 5 digs
Phoebe Glenn 4 set assists, 2 ace serves, 1 dig
Maci Martini 3 kills, 3 digs
Kate Bolz-Andolshek 8 kills, 5 digs
Lydia Hubbard 5 kills, 3 blocks
Mariah Rickard 2 set assists, 1 ace serve, 13 digs
North Branch statistics
Kylie Kline 6 set assists, 4 ace serves, 14 digs
Paige Sheehan 6 kills, 33 set assists, 2 ace serves, 2 digs, 1 block
Paige Peaslee 8 kills
Cianna Selbitschka 21 kills, 2 set assists, 2 ace serves, 14 digs
Emily Benedict 1 kill, 1 dig
Katie Anderson 6 digs
Haley Hadrava 3 kills
Maddie Helin 7 kills, 1 ace serve, 3 digs
Reagan Irons 6 set assists, 4 ace serves, 14 digs
Macy Brodin 2 ace serves, 14 digs
North Branch 3, Pequot Lakes 0
Key: Cianna Selbitschka was too much for the Patriots defense to handle as they could not get much going themselves.
Overall: PL 27-6, NB 28-4
Next: Pequot Lakes plays No. 2 Marshall 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Xcel Energy Center.