The North Branch girls soccer team saw its dreams of advancing to the Class 2A state tournament dashed with a 3-0 loss to Cloquet-Carlton in the Section 7 championship contest played Tuesday, Oct. 19, at Duluth Denfeld.

But coach Josh Kopp said ending the year with a loss should not diminish his team’s fine season, nor the effort the Vikings’ six seniors extended in helping him build the program.

“I became the coach when those seniors were freshmen, and as a new coach I wanted to build a culture for the program,” Kopp said. “Those seniors not only helped raise the level of on-field play for North Branch soccer, they also solidified a championship culture, and I couldn’t be more thankful for their efforts.”

North Branch, which finished the season with a 13-5-1 overall record, advanced to the section final with wins over Hibbing and Grand Rapids. But Cloquet-Carlton, which was ranked ninth in Class 2A in the Minnesota State High School Soccer Coaches Association poll, scored a goal in the 15th minute of the final game and kept applying pressure all match long.

“Cloquet’s work rate is very high, and they’re able to get upfield quickly when they possess the ball,” Kopp said. “We could not get much going early, but I thought our defense was pretty good. Even though they scored in the 15th minute, we kept working.”

Kopp also noted that Cloquet-Carlton was playing in its third straight section final, while no member of North Branch’s team had ever reached that level in the tournament.

“That may have contributed a bit to the outcome of the match,” he said. “We have played a lot of sophomores and younger players all season, including two eighth graders. I think those players will provide a strong foundation for our future.”

But the program also will need to replace those six seniors who contributed so much. Among the biggest losses will be forward Lilly Johnson, who was named First Team All-Minnesota, second team all-state midfielder Emmie Meyer, and defender Paris Kopp, who is the coach’s daughter.

“Lilly has been on the varsity since she was a freshman, and she has done an excellent job leading our attack,” coach Kopp said. “Emmie has been our holding midfielder, and she has been great at keeping the team together. And Paris has been our center back, which makes her the leader of our defense.

“They and the rest of our six seniors will be missed, because they will leave holes that will be hard to fill.”

BOYS CROSS-COUNTRY

Cambridge-Isanti placed third in the Mississippi 8 Conference Championship run at Liberty Elementary School in Big Lake on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The Bluejackets finished with 85 points to beat Becker by 12.

C-I ran as a tight pack, with a split of a little more than one minute separating its top six runners. Senior Jaxon Jones led the way, placing 13th overall with a time of 17:50.1, while eighth grader Hunter Jacobson was next with a 17:52.3 clocking.

Senior Blake Roberts finished 16th with a time of 18:10.5, and senior Zander Gallmeier was 20th with an 18:30.4 clocking.

North Branch ran seventh at the Mississippi 8 Conference Championship with 181 points and was led by freshman Jordan Stum, who placed 36th overall with a time of 19:48.8. Next for the Vikings were seniors Zachary Johnson, who placed 39th overall with a time of 20:11.5, and Alex Dick, who was next with a time of 20:21.1. Eighth grader Andrew Witkowski placed 42nd (20:30.5), followed by junior Jarett Nelson (20:35.6).

Rush City finished second among the three full teams in the Great River Conference Championship run at Grand National Golf Club in Hinckley on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

Senior Joey Papke finished second in the race with a time of 19:06, while senior Dalton Paul placed fifth with a 19:31 clocking. Papke and Paul were the only runners at the meet who denied race champion Pine City a sweep of the top six places.

Tigers eighth grader Brayden Ertz finished 10th with a time of 20:17, followed by senior Karl Meissner with a 20:28 clocking.

While Braham did not field a full team in the Great River Conference meet, junior Brett Lund finished 21st with a time of 24:56 while senior Ed Oquist finished 22nd with a 28:13 clocking.

GIRLS

CROSS-COUNTRY

Cambridge-Isanti placed fifth in the Mississippi 8 Conference Championship run at Liberty Elementary School in Big Lake on Tuesday, Oct. 19, scoring 123 points and trailing fourth-place St. Francis by just three.

Eighth grader Makenna Sjoberg led the Bluejackets, finishing 17th overall with a time of 21.43.5, while junior Kendyl Izzo was 21st with a 22:06.4 clocking. Close behind Izzo was seventh grader Molly Larson in 25th place overall (22:32.6).

North Branch placed eighth with 176 points, just one in back of seventh-place Big Lake. Senior Cora Hudella led the Vikings with a 29th-place finish (23:00.9), followed by junior Hannah Reed (23:21.6) in 33rd and seventh grader Ruby Hanson (24:07.6) in 38th.

Rush City finished fourth in the Great River Conference Championship run at Grand National Golf Club in Hinckley on Tuesday, Oct. 19.

The top runner for the Tigers was eighth grader Leah Stavig, who placed 20th overall with a time of 25:45, while freshman Ashland Paul finished 23rd with a time of 26:21.

While Braham did not field a full team in the Great River Conference meet, freshman Ava Johnson placed 19th with a time of 24:53 while junior Alison Shockman finished 24th with a 26:50 clocking.

BOYS SOCCER

Cambridge Christian played its final regular-season game on Tuesday, Oct. 19, and dropped a very tight 2-1 decision at Willmar, a team that beat the Warriors 6-0 earlier in the season.

Willmar did not score until the 63rd minute of the contest, and then added a goal in the 70th minute. Reece Bourke scored for Cambridge Christian in the 76th minute to narrow the margin, but the Warriors were unable to get the tying goal.

The Warriors finished the regular season 7-8 overall and a 4-5 mark good for fourth in the seven-team Christian Athletic League. Cambridge Christian now will open the tournament with a match against Rochester Area Home School on Friday, Oct. 29, in Willmar starting at 9 a.m.

A victory would lift CCS into a semifinal match against top-ranked Valley Christian at 4 p.m. that same day.

“Before the season, we thought that if we could be a team in the middle of the pack, that would be amazing,” coach John Newton said. “This team has grown by leaps and bounds, and that has been a fun surprise, especially with our injuries early in the season.

“We’ve seen the team rally all season long, and I hope we can continue that improvement as we enter the tournament.”

VOLLEYBALL

Cambridge-Isanti ended its regular season with a 3-1 victory at Chisago Lakes on Tuesday, Oct. 19, a win that lifted its overall season record to 16-8 while tying C-I for third place with North Branch in the Mississippi 8 Conference with a 5-3 mark.

The Bluejackets were seeded fifth in the Class 4A Section 7 tournament and will open with a contest at fourth-seeded Centennial on Thursday, Oct. 28. With a win, C-I would advance to a semifinal match either at top seed Blaine or at home against eighth seed Coon Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 3.

Cambridge-Isanti will host the section championship match on Saturday, Nov. 6, starting at 7 p.m.

North Branch closed its regular season with a three-set loss at Big Lake on Tuesday, Oct. 19, a loss that dropped the Vikings’ regular-season record to 18-9 overall and 5-3 in Mississippi 8 Conference action.

North Branch was seeded fourth in the Class 3A Section 7 tournament and will open with a home match against Princeton on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 6 p.m. During the regular season the Vikings swept a three-set match against the Tigers in late September.

If the Vikings win, they will return to action with a contest at top-seeded Grand Rapids on Wednesday, Nov. 3. It is worth noting that, while the Thunderhawks are the top seed in the section, North Branch is one of three schools whose Quality Results Formula (QRF) is within eight spots of Grand Rapids.
Rush City has not played since it completed its undefeated ride to the Great River Conference title by sweeping three sets from Ogilvie on Thursday, Oct. 14.

The 16-4 Tigers, who are seeded second in the South Division of the section, opened play in the Class 2A Section 7 tournament by hosting Moose Lake-Willow River on Wednesday, Oct. 27, in a contest that was not completed at press time.

If Rush City won that contest, it will host the winner of the Esko-vs.-Hinckley-Finlayson contest on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m. A victory in that match would propel the Tigers to a section semifinal match to be played at Hermantown on Wednesday, Nov. 3, starting at 5:15 p.m.

Braham closed its regular season with a three-set sweep at Hinckley-Finlayson on Tuesday, Oct. 19. The victory improved the Bombers’ record to 13-12 overall, and gave them a 7-3 Great River Conference record good for a second-place tie with Pine City in the standings.

Braham enters the Class A Section 5 tournament as the top seed in Pod D, and will open with a home match against East Central on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 7 p.m. With a win, the Bombers would advance to a second-round match against either Hill City or Northland from Pod C, with that contest to be played at Aitkin on Monday, Nov. 1, at 7:30 p.m.

A second victory would lift Braham into a section semifinal match at Crosby-Ironton on Thursday, Nov. 4, with the championship match also to be played at Crosby-Ironton two days later.

Cambridge Christian dropped a pair of matches last week, starting with a home loss in four sets to St. Cloud Christian on Monday, Oct. 19. The following evening the Warriors went on the road and lost in three straight sets to Willmar.

“Even though we got beat [by St. Cloud Christian], the sets didn’t feel like blowouts,” coach Rachel Newton said. “There were lots of rallies where we would volley back and forth, and there weren’t many easy points. We just couldn’t convert our offense into points enough times.

“We put so much effort into the match against St. Cloud, I thought we had less to give the next day.”

Against Willmar, Brooke Simonson finished with five kills, Ruby Prokop had four kills and three service aces, and Kaitlyn Bonkoski added three kills.

Cambridge Christian enters the Christian Athletic League tournament with a 3-9 overall record and is 3-5 in CAL play. The Warriors are the tournament’s fourth seed and will open against Rochester Area Home School on Friday, Oct. 29, starting at 9:30 a.m.

With a win, the Warriors would face top seeded St. Cloud Christian that same day at 2:45 p.m.; a loss would drop them into the consolation bracket for a match at 4:30 p.m. that day.

“I think this will be an exciting tournament, because there’s not a lot of separation between the teams,” Newton said. “This team, through the course of the season, has improved with each match, and I hope the season culminates with this team playing its best games in the tournament.

“If we play our best matches, I would like to see where that would take us in the tournament.”

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