Bemidji volleyball team outlasts state-ranked Nevis
A volleyball match between Bemidji and most Class A opponents would be one-sided and of little interest to the majority of the area sports fans.
Tuesday's match against Nevis, which entered the contest rated fourth in the Class A state high school poll, was a different story, however.
"Our view of this match was that we were playing a ranked team," said BHS assistant coach Netti Homer. "Nevis has built a tradition of excellent volleyball and has had a great program for many years. That is why we had Nevis on our schedule."
The Tigers lived up to their billing but in the end Bemidji's experience proved to be the difference. Nevis took the first game 25-22 but the Lumberjacks held serve the rest of the way and eventually outlasted their guests 22-25, 25-14, 25-21, 31-29.
The fourth game lasted 33 minutes and when Nevis missed a spike to give the Jacks the final point every BHS fan in the gym breathed a sigh of relief.
"We knew it was going to be a tough match and we knew we had to play our game to win," said Bemidji senior setter Jenna Sagedahl who dished 39 assists in the four games.
"At the end we just focused on getting the next point. We focused on what we could do to get a kill and get the point."
After spotting the Tigers a 1-0 lead in games Bemidji caught fire in the middle two sets. Leading the charge were pin-point accuracy from the serving line and a power game which could match that of Nevis hitter Riley Hanson.
Behind four aces by Nicole McDonald, three by Bri Thorson and another by Jess Yost, the Jacks consistently had the Tigers on their heels after delivering a serve.
"Our servers did a great job," Homer said. "Serving is a weapon if you use it the right way. We knew Nevis had some younger players coming up this year who may not be as confident as their veterans. And we tried to serve to their weaknesses."
With Thorson at the service line Bemidji bolted to a 7-0 lead. The streak included an ace, a pair of spikes by Allie Heifort and four Nevis miscues.
The Lumberjacks stretched the advantage to 11-2 and never allowed the visitors to mount a challenge.
Nevis appeared off its game during the middle stretches of the action, especially offensively. The Tigers were able to work their way for open spikes but many of them sailed wide or deep.
That trend continued in the third game, a set that BHS appeared to have under control with a 20-10 lead. The Lumberjacks, however, misfired on numerous offensive opportunities down the stretch and Nevis was able to close to within 24-21.
Heifort eventually delivered the winning spike, however, as she capped a play which began with Sagedahl hitting the floor to dig Hanson's rocket. Her teammates pounced on the dig and set up Heifort for the winning shot.
The fourth game featured 12 ties, the last at 29-29. Earlier in the set BHS owned a 24-21 advantage but Nevis scored four straight points on Hanson's spike, two Bemidji mistakes and Hanson's ace to take a 25-24 lead.
The teams traded points through 29-29 but the Jacks finally ended matters with Yost's killer smash and a missed spike by Nevis.
"We were pretty confident that we were going to get the winning points in the fourth game," Sagedahl said. "We knew we had to pass to the right spot to avoid their blockers and we made the right passes.
"But I am glad we ended it in four and didn't have to go to five," the senior added.
Yost and Heifort were the main beneficiaries of Sagedahl's assists as Yost delivered 19 kills and Heifort 17. Kellie Morehouse added five kills and Bardwell four.
Yost also led the Lumberjacks with 14 digs. Jasmine Yerbich and Thorson had 12, Hanna Olson and Sagedahl nine and McDonald eight.
Tuesday's victory was Bemidji's seventh in 10 matches. The Jacks head to Roseau Thursday.
Nevis dipped to 4-2, the other loss coming at the hands of Osseo.