BEMIDJI – Following Bemidji’s 25-15, 25-13, 25-11 Section 8-3A quarterfinal victory over Alexandria Friday at the BHS gym, Lumberjacks senior Jess Yost was cradling a dozen roses and trying her best not to cry.
“They are from my mom,” Yost said. “It’s been a long journey and my mom has been there the whole way.”
Yost and her fellow seniors have played their final match at the BHS gym but, judging by Friday’s performance, the journey appears to be far from over.
The reward for dismantling Alexandria is a trip to Monticello on Tuesday in the section semifinals. Monticello (16-13-1) is the top seed from the South Sub-Section while Bemidji (21-7), because of a lost coin flip, is seeded No. 2 in the North.
The higher seeded team was awarded the home court for the semifinals and Monticello’s 25-21, 25-19, 25-16 win over Sauk Rapids on Friday meant that the Lumberjacks will hit the road.
A year ago Bemidji made the same trip and cruised to a 25-21, 25-14, 25-14 upset victory. If BHS duplicates that result Tuesday, however, no one would be surprised.
“Our goal is to win the state championship,” Yost said. “And this year’s team has the talent, the experience and the confidence to do it.”
Those attributes all surfaced Friday. Alexandria stayed with Bemidji early in the first set but the Lumberjacks put the game away with a 7-0 run that increased a 7-6 lead to 14-6.
Myria Colley was at the service line for six of the points and Yost capped three of the points with vicious kills.
“Coming into this match the coaches and the players felt that we were ready,” Bemidji coach Teresa Colligan said. “The girls did a nice job of watching film and scouting Alexandria and they were prepared.”
In the second set the Cardinals gave their fans some temporary hope by bolting to a 10-3 advantage. BHS eventually tied the score 16-16 when Blake Bardwell fooled the defense with a tip and Bemidji’s experience preserved the 25-23 win.
“When I called the time out (with Bemidji trailing 9-3) I told the girls that it was early and there was no need to panic,” Colligan said. “We had that slump but we never gave up and we were able to inch our way back.”
The Jacks scored four of the game’s final six points to cement the victory. Allie Heifort started the winning surge with a spike and Yost delivered three kills.
That comeback spurred a decisive victory in the third game. Alexandria was within 8-7 early in the action but the Jacks outscored their guest 17-4 the rest of the way.
“This was a good way for the seniors to go out,” Colligan said. “I knew before the match that they weren’t going to end their home careers with anything less than a win.”
Yost finished with 16 kills, four blocks and 18 digs. Alexa Greendahl dished 33 assists while Bardwell had five blocks. Jasmine Yerbich added 16 digs.
“It’s been a very fun year and I think we are a stronger team than last year,” Yost said, clutching her flowers. “The players have come together as a team and we really believe that we can be the state champions.”