BEMIDJI – With the prestigious Apple Valley Invitational on this weekend’s docket the Bemidji High School volleyball team was hoping to hit on all cylinders Tuesday when it hosted Roseau.
The Lumberjacks, however, sputtered during the first two sets but managed to win both in unimpressive fashion.
Following the second game assistant coach Netti Homer challenged her players to perform to their capabilities and take care of business.
“I didn’t see much focus or extra effort during those first two games,” Homer said. “I didn’t see us playing with much intensity.”
To their credit, the Lumberjacks responded to the challenge and capped the night with a decisive game-three win and a 25-19, 25-20, 25-10 victory.
Tuesday’s victory was Bemidji’s seventh in eight outings but Homer and the players know that a similar effort Friday against Blaine will not result in win No. eight. The Bengals are ranked second in the state Class 3A poll.
Among the other teams participating in the tournament are Lakeville North (No. 1 in Class 3A), Eagan (No. 3 in Class 3A), Wayzata (No. 6 in Class 3A), Waconia (No. 8 in Class 3A), Marshall (No. 1 in Class 2A) and Bethlehem Academy (No. 1 in Class A).
“We cannot play this weekend at the level we played Tuesday and expect to do well at Apple Valley,” Homer said. “We need to kick our performance up a notch like we did in the third game.”
The Jacks have played four matches in seven days and that rigorous schedule could have had something to do with Tuesday’s slow start. Roseau, also, is not a natural rival and sometimes it is difficult to get excited about playing teams that you are expected to handle.
“Roseau played well but sometimes when you play a smaller team you can take it lightly,” Homer said. “Sometimes you don’t play to your accustomed level.”
During Tuesday’s first two games Bemidji was not flexing its muscles. In the opening set the visitors took advantage of a series of Lumberjacks miscues to forge leads of 11-6 and 15-10. BHS was still trailing 18-17 when Myria Colley saved the day by serving five points of a six-point run.
The game finally ended when Blake Bardwell and Jessica Yost combined on a stuff.
The second set also was closer than most fans had expected but a 5-0 spurt fueled by Yost gave BHS a 17-14 advantage, and three consecutive service points by Allie Heifort closed the curtain on a 25-20 victory.
“After that second game I told the girls that we needed some extra focus and extra effort,” Homer said. “And they responded. They played the way I expected them to the entire night.”
Timi Severson set the tone with a winning spike to open the game and then contributed a pair of service points, one of them coming off an ace to the front right corner.
Heifort upped the lead to 7-1 with three straight service points and Colley duplicated the feat a bit later to increase the cushion to 11-3.
Another 4-0 BHS run courtesy of Hanna Olson’s serving increased the margin to 20-7 and a Yost blast added the finishing touch.
“We’re still in the first half of the season and our goal is to improve with each match,” Homer said. “I don’t think we did that during Tuesday’s first two games but we played well in the third game.”
Yost finished with 20 kills while Heifort and Severson had six.
Colley, Bardwell and Heifort each had three blocks and Alexa Greendahl dished 30 assists.
Heifort also contributed three aces while Jasmine Yerbich, Yost and Olson finished with four digs.