Geographically, Sartell is about a five-minute drive from St. Cloud and about 2.5 hours from Bemidji.
Prior to this year the community of Sartell also boasted one of the few indoor tennis facilities north of the Twin Cities large enough to host a section high school tournament.
A much better facility, one housing six courts instead of the four at Sartell, has recently been constructed in Grand Forks and the coaches of the North Sub-Section 8-2A teams are in discussions about moving their tournament to that venue.
Last weekend, however, the teams from the North and South sub-sections endured the constantly-behind-schedule meet at Sartell. During Friday’s quarterfinal match Bemidji was scheduled to face Thief River Falls at 5:30 p.m. The match didn’t start until 7 p.m. and the Lumberjacks, who won 6-1, didn’t return to their hotel until 12:30 p.m.
As a comparison the St. Cloud Tech kids were home by 8 p.m. after disposing of Becker 6-1.
On Saturday BHS was scheduled to face Monticello at 3 p.m. in the semifinals. That match, which Bemidji won 7-0, began at 7 p.m.
St. Cloud Tech had a 1 p.m. semifinal against Brainerd and had time following the match to head home, grab some dinner and leisurely return to the court to prepare for Bemidji.
When the final between the exhausted Lumberjacks and the refreshed Tech players began about 9:30 p.m. the outcome was predictable.
“Tech was, head and shoulders, the best team in the section,” BHS coach Mark Fodness said. “We lost 7-0 to Tech in the section championship but if we play them during the regular season we probably still come up short but I think we would have a shot to go 5-2 or 4-3 with them.
“Under the circumstances that we faced in the section meet, and considering the tremendous effort we put forth in the semifinals against Monticello earlier Saturday, we played as well as we could against Tech. Asking for more from the players would have been asking way too much.”
The Lumberjacks ended a superb regular season with a 14-1 record, the lone loss coming to Tech in Saturday’s section final. During the past two years BHS won 24 straight regular season dual matches and its overall dual record during that span is 29-5.
“It took a very good Tech team to knock us out,” Fodness said. “All year we got better and better each time we played. The kids developed the mental approach you need to compete at this level.
“The coaches had great and talented kids to work with this fall and, as a result, we had a great season.”
Bemidji will now turn its attention to the section individual tournament which begins Friday and concludes Saturday.
Unfortunately for anybody not from the St. Cloud area, the meet will return to Sartell and the players will have to endure the same delays and the same disadvantages.
The top two singles and doubles finishers will advance to the state meet.
“If we play our best, I think we can qualify someone for state,” Fodness said. “In this tournament, with so much talent on the court, nothing will be handed to you.”
Representing the Lumberjack in singles play will be Jessica Solberg and Kenzie Schultz. Bemidji’s doubles teams will pair Olivia Dickinson with Annika Johnson and Amy Frosaker with Claudia Bellew.
Postseason on horizon
The girls soccer team is the second squad to begin its tournament season and the defending Section 8A champion Lumberjacks earned the second seed in the North-Sub-Section, just behind East Grand Forks.
BHS will begin its postseason Thursday at home against Crookston.
Other Thursday matchups would send Walker-Hackensack-Akeley to Detroit Lakes and Hillcrest to Fergus Falls.
If Bemidji wins its opener it will be home again Saturday against the Detroit Lakes-WHA winner.
The boy’s team is likely to earn the top seed in its sub-section tournament and would receive a bye in the first round.
In the quarterfinals the Jacks, if the QRF seedings hold, would face either East Grand Forks or Fergus Falls at home. The game probably will be Saturday either before or after the girls game.
The volleyball team, fresh off last weekend’s fourth-place finish at the St. Michael-Albertville Invitational, has a very busy week. Today the Lumberjacks will host Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton and on Thursday they travel to Wadena. On Friday and Saturday BHS will participate in a tournament hosted by Alexandria.
The swimmers and divers also are home today, taking on Detroit Lakes at 6 p.m. Thursday finds them at Moorhead and on Saturday they will compete in the section True Team meet.
The cross country teams are off until Oct. 16 when they host a meet at Greenwood Golf Course. Greenwood will also be the site of the Section 8-2A meet on Oct. 25.
Capping the week’s varsity events will be Friday’s home football game against Sauk Rapids. The Jacks are coming off last week’s 38-23 victory at Alexandria and will take a 4-2 record into the contest.
Sauk Rapids fell to 1-5 Friday when it lost 9-6 to St. Cloud Apollo.
Bemidji currently is ranked third in Section 7-5A, according to the QRF ratings. Cambridge is first (72.7 QRF points) and is followed by Chisago Lakes (70.0), Bemidji (51.8), Duluth East (28.5), Duluth Denfeld (24.5) and St. Francis (13.2).