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North Branch rallies to edge Watertown-Mayer in Class 2A volleyball quarterfinals

November 9, 2018

North Branch, last year’s Class 2A state runner-up, lost the first two sets to Watertown-Mayer by two points each in the Class 2A volleyball state quarterfinals Thursday night.

So the Vikings needed to win the next three sets to advance against a team it had swept in the quarterfinals a year ago.

Yes, call this a memorable comeback.

“It’s crazy,” said junior Cianna Selbitschka. “We were down two-nothing, and just one thought in mind was: ‘We’re not ending this game here.’ ”

The fourth-seeded Vikings defeated No. 5 seed Watertown-Mayer in a tight five-set match, 25-27, 23-25, 25-20, 26-24, 15-8.

Watertown-Mayer (24-7) cruised to wins in the first two sets behind eighth-grade libero Kate Thibault, who ended up with a match-high 38 digs, and sophomore Paige Thibault, who led her team with 20 kills.

“We really shocked them,” said Watertown-Mayer coach Andrea Raser, of her team’s start. “Because we came out, we played strong.”

North Branch (27-4) also hurt itself with nine service errors in the first set. The Vikings didn’t let the early deficit get to them, however, and built a lead in the third set and finished it off with a kill by Cianna Selbitschka.

“We stopped talking,” said Watertown-Mayer’s Nikki McDonald. “We played very well the first two sets … and then we just settled in a little too much in the third.”

Senior Lydia Langevin helped her team get to the deciding fifth set with kills for the last three points in the fourth set.

Langevin finished the match with 16 kills. Selbitschka, her school’s record holder in kills, tallied 34. Having a nice “1-2 punch” with a pair of outside hitters who get as high and hit as hard as Langevin and his daughter is a big benefit, coach Selbitschka said.

“The amount of sets that go outside because a ball [is] out of system, you just need to have somebody that can take out the garbage,” said coach Mike Selbitschka, Cianna’s father. “No two better players that I’d rather have taking out the garbage than these two girls here.”

Kasson-Mantorville 3, St. Cloud Cathedral 0: The top-seeded KoMets moved on with a 25-11, 25-18, 25-16 sweep of Cathedral. They took a 5-0 lead in the first set, cruised to a 1-0 match lead and didn’t let up in the match that lasted just over an hour. Ms. Volleyball finalist Peyton Suess tallied a match-high 19 kills and added nine digs. The KoMets (31-2) have won 14 straight matches. Senior Gabby Heying led Cathedral (28-3) with 12 kills.

Marshall 3, Park Rapids 1: The Tigers (28-5), playing in their record-setting 28th state tournament, won 25-19, 25-17, 25-27, 25-21 victory over unseeded Park Rapids (24-7), making its first appearance.

“Sometimes that first round is just a grind,” Marshall coach Dan Westby said. “We’re going to have to play better.”

Senior Erica Jones had 11 kills and 21 digs for Marshall. Junior setter Logan Sherman led with 22 set assists and added seven kills and nine digs.

“One of my fears was that [my players] would look at them as a Goliath, and they didn’t,” Park Rapids coach Stephanie Hanson said.

Senior Kaisa Coborn led Park Rapids with 16 kills and had 19 digs.

Concordia Academy 3, Belle Plaine 1: The No. 2-seeded Beacons advanced with a four-set win over Belle Plaine, 25-16, 25-20, 20-25, 26-24. Concordia Academy is looking for its first volleyball state title since 1987.

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