BEMIDJI – A trip to the state tournament will be on the line today when the Bemidji volleyball team faces Fergus Falls in Detroit Lakes for the Section 8-3A championship.
Today’s 7 p.m. match is a repeat of the 2011 title battle that BHS won 25-20, 25-21, 25-18. The reward for that victory was the first trip to the state tournament in the program’s history.
The Lumberjacks went 0-2 at last year’s state tournament and senior Blake Bardwell said that Bemidji wants to return to state so it can have an opportunity to improve upon that performance.
“Losing right away last year gave us the incentive to get back to state and show what we really can do,” Bardwell said. “For me, being a senior, this is it (for her volleyball career). And I don’t want it to end knowing we should have done so much more.”
Bemidji’s immediate goal tonight is to punch its ticket to the state. Fergus Falls, however, will be looking to steal that reservation.
“Our experience will help us but Fergus Falls is hungry and is looking for revenge,” said BHS coach Teresa Colligan. “Winning on Saturday will be far harder than it was last year. Fergus has worked just as hard as we have to get to this point and it is missing only one starter from last year.
“Playing for the section championship is where we expected and wanted to be,” Colligan continued. “We knew Fergus would be one of the teams in the section final and we wanted to be the other one.”
The teams seem to be evenly matched. The Lumberjacks finished 18th in the state QRF rankings at 162.6 while Fergus Falls was 21st at 155.3.
The Otters own a 25-5 overall record while BHS is 22-7. Both teams received three first-place votes, a pair of second-place votes and seven points in the sub-section coaches’ poll. Fergus Falls won a coin flip to break that deadlock and, consequently, was given the sub-section’s top seed.
“Last year I think we were the underdogs going into the section championship match,” said Bemidji senior Courtney Black. “But that’s not the case this year. Fergus Falls will be coming for revenge and we will have to be ready to take their best shot.
“It’s been fun growing as a team and this is the year we think we can do well.”
Bemidji needed to rally past Monticello 25-22, 26-28, 20-25, 25-18, 15-8 in the section semifinals to gain tonight’s final. Fergus Falls had less trouble as the Otters blitzed Rocori 25-13, 25-15, 25-11 in their semifinal.
Bemidji’s comeback showed the Jacks what it will take to get past Fergus Falls.
“Our three main goals (tonight) will be communication, concentration and intensity,” Colligan said. “We need to play as a team and not as individuals the entire match. When we play as a team we are lethal.”
The state tournament begins Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The top four teams will be seeded and their opening-round opponents will be determined through a random draw of the four non-seeded squads.