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Volleyball: Bemidji escapes Sartell in Section 8-3A quarterfinals

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BEMIDJI — There is no substitute for experience and Friday night at the Bemidji High School gym the Lumberjacks volleyball players relied on that asset when they hosted Sartell in the quarterfinals of the Section 8-3A tournament.

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The Jacks, who have captured the section title the past two seasons, entered Friday’s match seeded third in the 12-team field while Sartell was ranked 11th.

Friday night, however, the ratings proved to be of little consequence as the Sabres gave BHS all it could handle.

In the end, Bemidji won the final two games and outlasted the Sabres 13-25, 25-20, 18-25, 26-24, 15-13.

“We knew this match wasn’t going to be easy,” said Jacks senior middle hitter Claire Laakso. “We went into the match knowing it was going to be very close.”

Friday’s victory vaulted the Lumberjacks into the section semifinals and a Tuesday test at Moorhead. The Spuds are seeded second and advanced Friday with a comfortable 25-6, 25-13, 25-11 victory over Big Lake.

In Friday’s upper bracket quarterfinals top seed Alexandria outgunned No. 8 St. Cloud Tech 24-26, 25-18, 22-25, 25-13, 15-7 and fifth seed Detroit Lakes upset No. 4 Monticello 25-15, 25-19, 16-25, 25-23.

“Sartell is a very good team. We scouted them and we knew that they are young and talented,” said Bemidji coach Teresa Colligan. “When I look at Sartell I see a team similar to ours and a team that, when it plays its best, is very good.”

Sartell also is scrappy and at times its constant hustle seemed to frustrate the Lumberjacks.

“Sartell is a very good blocking team and that ability made it difficult for our hitters,” Colligan said. “The good thing is that at crunch time you could see us rise up and play our game. Early in the year that may not have happened. But now we are playing to win.”

The Sabres also were playing to win and for much of the evening it appeared as if they would pull off the upset.

The visitors dominated the opening set and cruised to a 25-13 win. In the second game the Jacks snapped a 19-19 deadlock with spikes by Laakso and Brylee Colligan and Bemidji went on to win 25-20.

But Sartell returned the favor in the third game and used a 5-1 spurt in the waning stages to take a 2-1 lead in games.

Facing an abrupt end to its season Bemidji rallied from a 24-23 deficit to claim the fourth set 26-24.

A pair of spikes by Myria Colley and a stuff by Laakso keyed the rally.

In the decisive fifth set the Lumberjacks took an 8-5 lead with a 7-1 run which included a pair of Colley spikes, a fisted tip by Colley and a pair of combined stuffs by Laakso and Alexa Greendahl.

Colligan eventually ended the marathon when her spike hit the floor.

“We never got down on ourselves even though we were behind,” Laakso said. “We knew we had to bring the fire to come back and we know that we will have to bring that same fire (at Moorhead) on Tuesday.”

Colley finished with 28 kills and Colligan contributed 16.

Greendahl had a tremendous night as the junior dished 51 set assists. Laakso finished with five blocks while Emily Falldorf and Greendahl had four.

Hanna Olson was all over the court and paced the defense with 24 digs. Colley added 16, Greendahl 11 and Talia Lucken 10.

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Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

(218) 333-9200
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