There have been so many times where the road to the Minnesota state volleyball tournament has gone through Moorhead. It won't be this way this year. The Bemidji Lumberjacks, after blowing a six-point lead in Set 2, rallied to force a Set 5 and won 26-24, 23-25, 18-25, 25-10, 15-8 over the Moorhead Spuds in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A, Section 8 playoffs.
"Hey, we just came to Moorhead and we just beat them," said Lumberjacks hitter Allie Heifort to her teammates following the win. "And we beat them at their place."
Heifort and Jess Yost were huge reasons why. The duo combined for 35 kills and was a constant problem for Moorhead's front line.
Heifort and Yost, even in pregame warm-ups, kept pounding ball after ball, showing a preview of what could come.
It came. It saw. It helped the Jacks get their first-ever playoff win against the Spuds.
The Jacks had a height advantage with 6-footer Heifort and the 6-foot-1 Yost, but it wasn't like the Spuds were fielding the Lollipop Guild either. Moorhead, in the start, made it hard for Heifort and Yost to get kills. But eventually, they found a hole, and when they did, they kept attacking.
"We did a scouting report, and we knew where the holes were on their defense," said Yost, who had 21 kills and four blocks. "They have a wonderful defense, but we have been coached really well and knew where the holes were."
When Yost found those holes, she made Moorhead (17-12) take notice. It reached a point when every time Yost went up for a potential kill, she had a smile on her face almost sensing what was going to happen.
Then when it did happen, it just added to the Jacks (21-8) momentum. Having blown a six-point lead earlier, it looked like the Spuds had the edge following a 25-18 lead in Game 3.
All of a sudden, it was a point here and a point there and next thing you know, the Jacks have a 18-6 after going on a 13-0 run.
"Momentum was key and there were huge swings," said Moorhead coach Char Lien. "Unfortunately, we came up on the short side."
Going into Set 5, both teams went back-and-forth to start, but the Jacks eventually pulled away.
Jenna Sagedahl was another big reason why the Jacks were able to pull away. Sagedahl ran down every ball in sight, even the ones her teammates hit, which took an odd bounce and looked unplayable.
Once she got there, she somehow turned a lost cause into another opportunity. That just made Yost and Heifort jump up like piranhas waiting for dinner. In this case, they had potatoes. And it tasted pretty good.
"I don't think we'd ever beaten Moorhead in the playoffs before, "Heifort said. "It's a great feeling to know that if we play our game and play hard, we can beat whoever we want to beat."
Ryan S. Clark is a sports writer for the Fargo Forum. The Forum and the Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Company.