Its crunch time tonight for the Bemidji High volleyball team as it pursues its elusive journey to its first state tournament.
Second seeded Bemidji drew an opening bye and will host third seeded Alexandria tonight at 7 in the second round while top seeded Moorhead takes on fifth ranked St. Cloud Tech. Tech ousted fourth rated Brainerd 3-1 in its opener while Alex eliminated Apollo 3-0.
In the south, top ranked Sartell takes on fourth seeded Monticello and second ranked sma is host to third rated Sauk Rapids.
There are only five teams in the south with the switch of Elk River out of the section.
Tonight's four winners move to the section semifinals Tuesday to be cross bracketed with the Moorhead-SCT winner facing SMA or Sauk Rapids and the Bemidji-Alex winner going against Sartell or Monticello. Those games will be played at a neutral site as will the title game Nov. 6.
To reach the state, Bemidji will now have to beat three of the top teams in the area, all of them frequent state visitors.
Alex has made 10 state trips, taking the title in 1995 and 1999 and losing in the finals on two other occasions.
SMA is the two time defending section champ, beating Bemidji in a classic five-set final in 2007 and in straight sets in the semifinals last year. It has been to the state eight times.
Moorhead is the kingpin of the section, making 18 state appearances with a title in 1998 and four runner up finishes.
Bemidji takes a school record 22-5 mark into tonight's match. Two of its losses came at the Marshall Challenge against state ranked teams. Two others came at the Alex Invitational to Rocori and Renville County. The fifth was to Moorhead in four sets at Moorhead.
The Cardinals did not face Bemidji this year, but did stop Bemidji last year 3-1 at the Alex meet.
No lineup changes are planned with Kayla Hirt and Jess Yost the twin towers inside, Kelsey Heisler and Ab by Hendricks at the corners, Brooke Homer the setter, Courtney Homer, Meghan Wannebo and Erika Weimann in backcourt with Nicole McDonald and Allie Heifort topping the JV contingent joined by Kelly Morehouse, Jenna Sagedahl, Liz Hirt and Breanna Thorson.