Two ranked teams from north of the metro meet for the third straight season. Last year, North Branch won in five sets and in 2016 it was Forest Lake that won 3-2, setting up what should be another competitive nonconference meeting.
Forest Lake, ranked No. 6 in the Class 3A preseason coaches' poll, and No. 1-2A North Branch are both coming off state tournament appearances. The Rangers lost 3-0 in the first round to Eagan in last season's Class 3A tourney while the Vikings fell 3-0 to Maple Lake in the Class 2A championship.
North Branch is 2-0 to start the year, thanks in part to Cianna Selbitschka who had 12 kills and 12 digs in the Vikings’ season-opening sweep of Glencoe-Silver Lake on Aug. 25. Setter Haley Hadrava comes off a 2017 season in which her 969 assists set the school's single-season record.
Forest Lake (1-0) started the season with a 3-1 victory at Hill-Murray on Aug. 28 and again looks poised to make a run to the state tournament. The Rangers, who won last year's Section 7 tournament 3-0 over Grand Rapids as the No. 3 seed, won't have the element of surprise on their side this season.
Forest Lake returns nine letterwinners, including a trio of all-conference selections in Angela Denney, Abigail Groeneweg and Ava Schmoll. Denney and Groeneweg each had more than 330 kills last season, and Schmoll set a single-season record with 652 digs in 2017.