The veteran Alexandria Cardinals brought the finest volleyball season in Bemidji history to a sudden end Friday night, stopping Bemidji 3-1 in the second round of the Section 8-3A playoffs at the Bemidji field house.
The Cards, third rated entering play to Bemidji's second, won two close decisions in Games 1 and 3 to take a 2-1 lead, then dominated the fourth set to pull away.
Alex won 25-23, 17-25, 25-22, 25-14.
It sends the Cardinals to the semifinals, likely to play at the south's top rated team Sartell.
If form prevailed, Moorhead will host SMA in the other semi. The title game will be Nov. 6 at a neutral site.
Bemidji had its chances through the first three games but was unable to take charge n Games 1 and 3.
For service faults proved the difference in the Cardinals two point win
Bemidji led through much of game behind its strong offense from its big front line.
One brief string of four points behind Courtney Homer lifted Bemidji to a 13-8 advantage and seemingly on its way to victory.
But it was never able to put more than two points together the rest of the way and Alexandria battled back behind a 7-2 run to take its first lead at 19-18.
The teams traded points through 21-21 when Alex scored twice on Bemidji errors, then swapped single points to the end, gaining the final point on a Bemidji error.
Bemidji held a slim 12-10 lead in earned points with Kayla Hirt getting six kills and Kelsey Heisler four. Alex had the lone ace and Bemidji four of the five bad serves.
Bemidji fights back
Bemidji came back quickly to tie the score in Game 2 taking a small lead at the outset and holding it through the midpoint.
Alex made two brief runs to trail 16-14 and 18-16 before Bemidji ended the game with a string of six with Jess Yost serving to pull away.
Bemidji had only one service fault to Alexandria's two and held a small 9-8 lead in earned points with Yost getting three and Hirt and Heisler two. Brooke Homer had back to back aces.
Game 3 was a rerun of Game 1. Only this time Alex held the lead through the most part but never by any convincing margin.
Bemidji ran three at the start but could register two only once after that allowing Alex to run a three spot to go ahead 15-10. It was 18-14 when Brooke Homer took the line for a string of four to knot the score at 18-18 and put Bemidji back in a position to pull out the victory.
But three straight errors ended this run though the home team battled back again to tie at 22-22 when the Cardinals wrapped two Bemidji errors around a spike to win.
Bemidji again held a slimn12-10 lead in earned points with Hirt getting five and Yost four.
Alex had the only two service faults and the lone ace.
Comeback wins have been a Bemidji strong point this year and it seemed as if that might take place again.
For the home team ripped off a run of four to take a 5-1 lead.
It lingered into midway through the game when Jacque Brown went to the line for eight straight points, three of them on aces, ,to send the winners ahead 15-8 and all but write an end to any comeback thoughts.,
Bemidji managed only single points until the score reached 24-12 when it put two together on two Alex mistakes before the home team launched a long hit for the final point.
Bemidji was held to a season low four earned points, three solo kills and a Brooke Homer ace.
Alex ended with12.
On the night, Brooke Homer had 31 assists while Courtney Homer had 26 digs, Erika Weimann 14 and Abby Hendricks 13.
The loss ended the careers of five Bemidji players, Heisler, Hendricks, Weimann and the Homer twins.
But returning next fall will be starters Hirt, Yost, and Meghan Wannebo from the top eight with replacements moving up from the JV. Six of those players dressed for the final game.
It was the eighth consecutive winning season for Coach Teresa Colligan in her eight years at the helm.
The loss was the first home setback for Bemidji in the past three seasons.