North volleyball places second in Section 4AAA Tournament

The North High School volleyball team had an opportunity to punch its ticket to the state tournament on Nov. 1 against the Stillwater Ponies at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul. 

Although North fell short to Stillwater in the Section 4AAA championship match, it was a totally different matchup than when Stillwater beat North in three straight sets on Oct. 12. Stillwater pulled away with a dominant 15-5 fifth set win to secure the section title. 

The energy from both teams was felt throughout the gymnasium. It was a win-or-go-home matchup and each squad knew what was at stake. 

North seemed to be feeling out the Ponies early on as the Polars sent some easy volleys over to Stillwater’s side, which resulted in an aggressive attack by Stillwater to start. 

North started to find its groove as two players really helped swing the momentum in the Polars’ favor. Junior Lauren Stenman had a couple nice kills and even had a couple impressive digs, while senior Selena Rodriguez made some skilled moves down in front of the net. 

North cruised to a first set victory after the Polars secured a second lead in the set at 13-12. From that point North went on a 13-5 run to close it out at 25-17. 

The Polars only have one player who is over six feet tall. That’s junior Yaiza Franco, who came up with some solid blocks that helped keep North in the match. Stillwater has three players who stand six feet or taller, which played to the school’s advantage through the five-set match. 

Despite the height advantage, North did what it could to stay relentless. Whenever the Ponies went on a run, North didn’t quit and that’s what helped the Polars continue to fight. 

Stillwater really executed its blocking game in the second set. North tried multiple times to set the ball up for a spike, but that lengthy Pony front held it down and was essentially too much for North. The Polars managed to bring it within one. The score was 21-20, but Stillwater pulled away to secure a 25-20 second set win.  

To start the third set, North played solid defense, coming up with incredible diggs off the relentless attack from Stillwater. North kept up up front and really hung with the Ponies until Stillwater began to pull away, going up 11-10. The Ponies finished the set on a 14-5 run, which secured a 25-15 third set win. 

North bounced back after losing the sets two and three. The Polars locked it down in the second half of the fourth set. North knotted up the score at 18-18, and that’s when the Polars went on a 7-1 run to take set three 25-19. Stillwater seemed a little unorganized to finish the fourth set and North took advantage of that. 

All the marbles came down to the fifth and deciding set, and that’s when Stillwater reorganized. The set plays to 15 and teams must win by two, unlike the other sets that are played until one side reaches 25 points, or wins by two. North ended Stillwater’s eight-point run after its second timeout to bring the score to 12-5, but that was a mountain too tall to climb for North. Stillwater won in the final set 15-5. 

North finished the regular-season with a 24-2 record. Its only losses came against Stillwater and Concordia Academy. Other than that, the Polars shut out 21 opponents and only gave up eight total sets all regular season. 

Stillwater will play at the Xcel Energy Center in the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Tournament. The tournament runs Nov. 8 to 10. The Ponies finished with a regular season record of 16-9.


–Lucas Ailport can be reached at

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