The Forest Lake volleyball team went 2-1 this past week, including a heated 3-2 win over the up-and-coming North Branch squad.
In set one against the Vikings, Forest Lake fell to an early 11-5 deficit, but came within two points at 22-20 with the help of big blocks at the net. Unfortunately for the home team, it wouldn’t be enough to stifle opposing middle hitter Katy Trunk, who drilled home a quick set for the kill and 25-23 win.
Forest Lake adjusted with lineup changes in set two by moving senior middle hitter Caitlin Freer to the outside and bringing in fresh legs at middle in ninth-grader Tia Moscatelli. She helped the Rangers capture the second game without question, 25-13.
Set three proved to be a back-and-forth battle from the start. With both teams struggling to serve receive and tied at 12, North Branch hitters struggled to connect with their setter, pushing Forest Lake to a 16-13 lead to give the a cushion until hitting errors and net violations brought the Vikings back to tie things up at 24.
Following another Trunk kill, senior right side Kristy Dellwo pushed a kill through the block to even the score at 25. Senior middle hitter Mariah Daninger gave Forest Lake a one-point lead after a block kill, only to have Trunk swing for another kill in the middle.
Two side-outs later and the score tied again at 27, Viking hitter Maddy Kunshier struck with one of her 15 kills on the night to give North Branch a 28-27 lead. Forest Lake struggled to recover a block, falling in set three 29-27.
Between big blocks by Dellwo and Daninger, big kills by Freer and Moscatelli, consistent serving by senior libero Bree Raabe and smart decision-making by setters Chelsie Bethke and Kenzie VanBuskirk, Forest Lake took set four by storm, winning 25-18 and forcing a fifth set.
Daninger opened the final game with an effective tip to the right of the Viking block for a kill and the lead, followed by a hitting error by North Branch to put the Rangers up by two. Though the Vikings would tie it up at three apiece, Freer would hit two kills in the next three plays to give the Rangers a 6-3 lead.
Forest Lake wouldn’t look back, winning the set 15-11 for the match victory.
Head coach Sherri Alm said it was nice to see her squad step up after the lineup change in set two.
“Yay, just yay,” Alm said. “It was nice to see them step up and be able to switch gears. Caitlin did a great job on the outside and Tia did a great job in the middle, and we adjusted on defense and did a much better job of picking up their tips.”
Daninger led the Rangers with 16 kills and three blocks, followed by Freer with 11 kills and four blocks between middle and outside. Moscatelli had a breakout night with 10 kills and one block, while right side and setter, Bethke, recorded eight kills, four blocks, 26 assists and two aces. VanBuskirk added 25 assists.
Dellwo and junior Payton Baker added seven kills apiece, along with three blocks and two blocks, respectively.
Alm said she knew the matchup, even though a non-conference game, would be tough, considering young talent on the Viking team.
“They were undefeated,” Alm said. “Even though, historically, we usually win, they have weapons. We knew they were up and coming last year, and they have some young kids that are pretty good. We knew it would be a good match, but also knew if we played the way we can play, we should win.”
The Rangers also beat Chisago Lakes on Tuesday, Sept. 10, then traveled to Centennial on Monday, Sept. 16, where they fell in three sets.
Forest Lake hosted Woodbury at home on Tuesday, Sept. 17, and travels to Stillwater for a 7 p.m. matchup on Thursday, Sept. 19.