Maple Lake has struggled to find firm footing in the early stages of this season.
The Irish, in the preseason state champion conversation, have an experienced senior lineup led by setter Ella Kiebel. Middle blocker Emma Jude, defensive specialist Kendra Jude and hitters Taylor Hess and Kylie Edmonson give the Maple Lake a veteran lineup.
Coach Marty Kiebel, Ella's father, has 434 career victories in his 23rd year of coaching.
The Irish, however, are 4-3 after defeating Kimball last week to break a three-match losing streak.
Perhaps it's good timing for unranked Paynesville (11-1, 2-0), which has won 10 consecutive matches since an Aug. 27 loss to Delano. Senior defensive specialist Natalie Riley and junior outside hitter Kyleigh Tangen lead the Bulldogs, who lost two All-Central Minnesota Conference players to graduation after a 6-6 overall record in 2020.