BEMIDJI – The young Bemidji State volleyball team is still learning the ropes.
Despite a solid performance against Minnesota Crookston Tuesday night, the Beavers never quite found the run to put the Eagles away.
It resulted in a three-game Minnesota Crookston sweep (25-23, 27-25, 25-21) in Bemidji State’s home opener.
“We talked about that in the locker room after the match,” BSU senior outside hitter Bethany Thompson said. “We played well, but we need to push for more runs and to stop the other team from getting them. That’s been our problem this year.”
Thompson recorded her fifth double-double of the season with 17 kills and 10 digs, but even her strong game couldn’t push the Beavers (3-7, 1-2 NSIC) past the Eagles (7-3, 3-0).
“To see this energy and execution and effort is a huge step forward for us,” BSU head coach Wayne Chadwick said. “We just need to be more consistent.”
BSU was never more than three points behind UMC in each of the first-two sets, and the teams were tied at 23-all in each set. But both times, the Eagles had an answer.
In the first set, BSU rallied from a late three-point deficit and tied the game at 23 following a kill by Thompson. But a service error from sophomore Courtney Volkmann, followed by a kill from Crookston’s Alexandra Skeeter, pushed the Eagles to the 25-23 victory.
In the second set, it was Crookston’s turn to rally.
The Beavers led by as many as six points, including what appeared to be a stranglehold on the lead at 14-6. But the Eagles went on a couple of min-runs to eventually tie things up at 15-all, and from there the volleys went back and forth.
The Beavers survived a Crookston setpoint at 24-23 when Thompson kept her team alive with a monster kill.
Then, an ace from Volkmann gave BSU its first setpoint of the match at 25-24.
However, Volkmann’s next serve hit the net, tying the game at 25-all. A couple of quick kills gave the Eagles the 2-0 match lead.
“That was a bit frustrating,” Chadwick said. “We had about five missed serves in the last 7 to 10 points at the end of that second game. It’s one we should have won.”
In the third set, the Beavers were ahead by as many as five points (15-10).
The Eagles, as they did time and again Tuesday, kept attacking.
A 6-1 UMC run tied the game at 16-all. The teams once again exchanged points until a 21-21 tie.
That’s when the Eagles reeled off four-straight points to finish the match.
“We knew it would be a good match,” Thompson said. “We just need to find another level to win these kinds of games.”
Thompson was responsible for 18 BSU points, leading the team in kills (17) and adding a service ace. She’s averaging nearly five kills a game despite the fact that every opponent the Beavers have played so far concentrates on blocking her.
“She just had a monster game,” Chadwick said. “It’s even more amazing because everybody knows we’re going to her, but she just keeps beating them.”
Volkmann also had a solid game for the Beavers Tuesday, with 25 assists; while Elissa Christensen led the way with 11 digs.
The Beavers only managed two blocks in the game, something Chadwick says needs to change.
“We really need to work on our blocking and help the defense out a little more,” he said. “Our defense is pretty good, but if we can block more balls and take the pressure off them we’d be doing a lot better.”
The Beavers have a busy weekend, but at least they’ll be home for it.
They’re set to host Augustana Friday before taking on nationally-ranked Wayne State Saturday afternoon.