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Melissa McNeely (14) and the Bemidji State volleyball team return to BSU Gymnasium today for the home opener against MSU, Moorhead. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

Bemidji St. volleyball home opener Friday night

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The Bemidji State volleyball team returns to BSU Gymnasium tonight to begin the NSIC season in the home opener.

The Beavers face Minnesota State University, Moorhead at 7 p.m. and wrap up weekend play Saturday against Minnesota-Crookston at 3 p.m.

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Bemidji State has been competing across the country over the last three weeks in tournaments at Nebraska, Florida and St. Paul.

The Beavers are 3-7 through the first 10 matches of the season.

A deeper look inside the record shows the Beavers have been competitive as four of the matches have come against nationally ranked teams.

After losing the season opener to No. 6 Nebraska-Kearney, the Beavers rattled off three straight 3-0 match victories to conclude the tournament in Kearney.

But BSU has struggled since leaving Nebraska and are on a six-game losing streak to enter tonight's game.

That streak started in tournament play in Tampa, Florida and continued last week in two non-conference games against NSIC opponents at Concordia-St. Paul.

The Beavers went 0-4 in the games against nationally ranked teams, including the two losses last week to No. 12 Southwest Minnesota State and No. 1 Concordia.

BSU challenged Southwest and took a 2-0 lead on the Mustangs only to lose in five sets.

Sophomore setter Courtney Bitter had a career-high 52 set assists and junior outside hitter Brie Groskreutz tied a career-high 33 digs in the loss to SMSU.

It's something the Beavers will look to build on beginning tonight with the Dragons.

Bitter is pacing the BSU offense and already has 1,208 career set assists. She ranks ninth on the school's all-time list and is on pace to become the top three in that category.

She's matching up well with her former Lake of the Woods High School teammate Nicole Olson, who leads the team in blocks (36) and kills (90).

Olson works the front line with Bethany Thompson, who is excelling at the service line with a team-leading 11 aces this season. The freshman from Owatonna ranks second in team kills with 88.

After this weekend, the Beavers continue the conference season with a three-game road trip at Northern State, Winona State and Upper Iowa.

Bemidji State returns home Oct. 2-3 against Augustana and Wayne State.

The Bemidji State soccer team continues its three game homestand with a pair of games to open up the NSIC season.

The Beavers play Minnesota State, Mankato on Saturday and Southwest Minnesota State on Sunday. Both games are at 1 p.m.

Bemidji State is 4-1 to start the season and defeated Jamestown 5-0 last Friday at home in its last game.

Bemidji State has been strong on both sides of the ball to start the season and have outscored opponents 24-1 through the first five games with four shutouts.

Brianna Duff, Kirsten Erickson and Ashlee Ellefsen are leading the Bemidji State offense. The trio have combined for 11 goals and 12 assists this season.

Duff has a team-leading six goals.

Samantha Ross and Abby Kjonaas have evenly split keeper duties to start the season, but have only needed to make 15 saves. Ross has seven saves and Kjonaas eight.

BSU has outshot opponents 110-29 this season.

Bemidji State will be tested by the Mavericks (4-0), a team picked to win the conference this season. Mankato is ranked No. 5 in the country.

Southwest enters the weekend with an 0-3 record.

Courtney Bitter and Chris Curb have been named Beaver Pride Athletes of the Week for the week of Sept. 7-14.

Bitter posted 74 set assists in two matches at the Concordia Tournament. Her 17 digs in the loss to SMSU also stood as a season high, while she added 12 digs against No. 1 Concordia University.

Curb, a newcomer to the BSU men's golf team opened his collegiate career by posting four consecutive rounds with scores under par, en route to medalist honors at the Concordia Invitational and a pair of team titles.

He finished fourth in the BSU Invite at Bemidji Town & Country Club and helped lead the Beavers to victory in the home event for the first time since 2001.

estromgren@bemidjipioneer.com

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