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It took five sets, but eventually the Forest Lake volleyball team was able to celebrate a victory over North Branch in the Rangers’ season opener, which took place on Thursday, Aug. 26.

The Forest Lake volleyball team opened its season with a roller-coaster five-set victory over North Branch at home on Thursday, Aug. 26.

And while coach Sherri Alm was happy with the win, she was not particularly pleased with how the 25-23, 23-25, 25-8, 23-25, 15-11 outcome was achieved.

“We don’t like roller-coasters,” she said. “Overall, it’s good to win. North Branch is competitive, and they’re tough to play. But things like miscommunications, and playing balls that are going out, need to end.”

Forest Lake got off to a shaky start early, but righted itself and eventually won the first set. That seemed to lead to some confidence that gave the Rangers an early advantage in the second set, only to watch the Vikings rally late and steal the set.

In the third set the Rangers roared to an early 17-3 advantage and were never challenged.

“I was pleased they stepped up to play after we dug ourselves a hole [in the second set],” Alm said. “It was the little things: connections here and there, making better decisions, putting the ball in better spots, and hitters seeing the floor a little better.

“We swung more aggressively, and I thought we did a better job at the net.”

But Forest Lake was unable to carry that momentum into the fourth set, which the Vikings won.

In the fifth set the Rangers scored six straight points, including back-to-back service aces by senior Ava Neuruer, to lead 7-3, only to watch North Branch rally with five straight points to claim a 9-8 advantage.

Forest Lake responded by scoring the next three points, including an emphatic kill by sophomore Maddie Muellner, to regain a lead it held to the finish.

Mueller had another kill while teaming with sophomore Lillian Desrosier on a block, while senior Emily McPhee added two late kills, including the game-clinching point.

While the reaction to the second-set loss was good, the reaction heading into the fifth set was more impressive.

“The second set was disheartening, but we came out like gangbusters and took care of business in the third set, and I liked that,” Alm said. “But in the fifth set, I thought the girls really responded well.”

Muellner led the Rangers with 18 kills, while junior Kaysie Bakke had 15 and junior Bethany Weiss added 11 kills and 18 digs

“We had several girls who were on the varsity floor for the first time, and I thought they did well,” Alm said. “And they were playing in front of a large crowd, and we were super-excited about that.

“But we certainly found out we have some things to practice.”

Forest Lake, which won in three sets over Elk River at home on Tuesday, Aug. 31, will not play again until it hosts Anoka on Thursday, Sept. 9, starting at 7 p.m.

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