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Return journey continues for North Branch volleyball

The journey back to the MHSAA State Finals continues for the North Branch volleyball team as the Broncos defeated Marysville in last night’s Division 2, Region 15 Semifinal: 25-17, 26-24, 25-20.

And although the match was decided in straight sets, it wasn’t without long rallies, exciting comebacks, and impressive athleticism as the athletes dove into their own benches to keep the points alive on several occasions.

North Branch senior Natasha Bickels rushes to the ball against Marysville in the regional semifinal Tuesday night.

“This season has been really fun and enjoyable with all the girls. Being able to make it to this match was really cool and this game was really fun to play in,” Marysville senior Kara Miller said. “We fell short, but we didn’t really feel like it too much, besides that third set. In the first two sets we were really competing with them.”

Marysville won the first point but an early 10-3 run made the difference for the Broncos. The Vikings battled back, closing the deficit to 20-15, but it was too large to overcome in the end. The second set, however, proved much closer.

The two teams were tied five different times before Marysville took an 11-9 lead. The Broncos responded with a 4-0 to regain control, and even when they led 18-13, the Vikings didn’t back down.

“We’re very disappointed that we lost. We know we’re right there. But these girls don’t give up. We’ve seen that all season,” Marysville head coach Kellie Kryscynski said. “Serve receive and defensively, that’s the best we’ve played all year. We kept telling them they have to do that, and they did. I told them I'm proud of them. It stinks that we lost, but we can’t be upset with the effort.”

Marysville senior Meghan Winston tips the ball against North Branch Tuesday night in the regional semifinal.

“We easily could’ve lost that second game and then it would have been a 1-1 match. That second set, they had one kill on us, we had 23 errors,” North Branch head coach Jim Fish said. “They won the serve-pass game…We typically have a lot of aces. We only missed two serves and had three aces, they had six.”

Marysville marched back from a 21-18 deficit to tie the game 21-21 on an ace from junior Avery Wolters. From there they battled point for point until North Branch finally earned the two-point advantage, 26-24.

“We’ve been harping on defense all season, especially this week. We know we have to play good defense,” North Branch junior Hailey Green said. “We have great hitters, so if we can play great defense and get the ball to our setters for our attackers, we know we can win.”

Which was exactly how the Broncos answered in the third. With Green leading the defense behind them and their setter Adrienne Greschaw beside them, North Branch’s hitters found their rhythm and went on a 10-2 to start the set.

Freshman Aubree Deshetsky led the way with 13 kills, junior Clara Gyomory added nine, and senior Natasha Bickel had nine as well while serving a perfect 12-for-12 with an ace.

“Natasha was perfect, she didn’t make an error,” Fish said. “She was 24-for-24 with nine kills, that’s really good.”

Green had 19 digs and Greschaw added 15 along with 40 assists on the night. Junior Alana Deshetsky served a perfect 13-for-13 as well and added 11 digs and seven kills.

“Everyone kept getting good hits, but then we got down and I just wanted to keep hitting to boost us up,” Gyomory said. “We’re so excited to play Notre Dame Prep. I feel like we’re ready.”

The Broncos will meet the Fighting Irish in Imlay City at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10 for the regional championship. The two teams played in a tournament back in September when North Branch won 2-0, however, Notre Dame Prep is the defending state champion, having defeated the Broncos 3-0 in the state championship last November.

“We're skilled and we’re a good team, but we’ve got to play a lot better,” Fish said. “I hope we’re ready for Thursday because they’re not going to make those mistakes…I’m confident, we’ve just got to play. We just haven’t clicked in a while and we’ve got one practice to put it all together and be prepared for Thursday.”

As for the Vikings, they finish the season at 32-11 overall with another district trophy, and although a strong group of seniors will be leaving, an even larger junior class is returning next season.

They were led in the loss by Wolters with nine kills and three aces, and junior Janae Hudson with five kills and two blocks. Miller and junior Kalista Negin had 31 and 20 digs, respectively, and senior Meghan Winston had 17 assists.

“This group [of seniors] is very special to me…They always put the team first and that's a legacy that’s more important than wins and losses,” Krysynski said. “If we have kids who can be unselfish and play like that for years to come, we’re going to take our program to where we want it to be…We have a solid core coming back and the potential to be just as good if not better next year…Hopefully we can continue to play at the level we’re capable of.”


For in-game updates and other news, follow Calli on Twitter @ newberry_calli

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