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This week in Bemidji High School sports

A perfect athletic schedule would feature half the contests on the road and the other half at home.

Playing away from home is important because the athletes must learn how to perform at their best in enemy territory. The majority of the post-season events are not played on home turf so learning how to win away from home is vital to any team and any program that wishes to challenge for tournament laurels.

But playing at home also is important to a successful program. At times the pressure to win can be even greater when an athlete is performing in front of family and friends. Relatives can be harsh in their assessments and the successful athletes are those who can cooperatively take constructive criticism but at the same time perform at peak efficiency while being watched, and sometimes overly scrutinized, by mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Playing at home also provides a respite from the bus rides that, especially for Bemidji athletes, are way too long and draining.

Most Bemidji High School sports teams enjoy the 50/50 schedule split. The main exception this year, however, is the girls tennis team.

The season began Aug. 23 at Pine City. Since then the Lumberjacks have traveled to Crookston, Brainerd, Coleraine, Detroit Lakes, Moorhead and Hibbing. The regular schedule also includes October trips to Detroit Lakes, Crookston and East Grand Forks.

The schedule includes only two home meets and both will be this week. Today sees BHS entertaining Detroit Lakes and Crookston in a triangular beginning at 3 p.m. and Thursday the Lumberjacks will host Thief River Falls in a 4:30 p.m. dual meet.

But for now, those two meets represent the entire 2010 home schedule.

"It will be great to finally get to play on our home courts," said Bemidji coach Mark Fodness.

"We will be working to add more home dates in the future. At some point we would certainly like to host a tournament. We have some great facilities and it's nice to give parents and fans a chance to see the team play.

"And I don't think any of the players or coaches would complain about not having to spend hours riding a bus this week," Fodness added.

BHS is coming off Saturday's fifth-place finish at the eight-team Hibbing Invitational. The Jacks tallied 14 points and trailed Virginia (27), Hibbing (25), Stillwater (24) and Grand Rapids (16).

Also competing were Duluth East (13), Eveleth-Gilbert (12) and Pine City (2).

Individually, Cortne Solberg and Jessica Solberg placed second at first doubles, Emma Nielsen and Katie Ditmanson were third at second doubles, Francesca Huerd and Annika Johnson split duties at fourth singles and finished fourth and the third doubles tandem of Claire Baumgartner and Haley Pollock was fifth.

MacKenzie Schultz was sixth at second singles as was Claudia Bellew at third singles.

Amy Frosaker placed seventh at first singles.

Fodness experimented with his lineup, padding the doubles and moving singles players up a position or two. That trend will continue this week.

"This week's matches will give us the chance to move players throughout the lineup to find the best combination for tournaments," Fodness said. "These matches also offer an opportunity to make improvements and solidify our play heading into tournaments.

"We always review our play after each match and talk about what we're doing well and what needs improvement," the coach continued.

"If we can make those adjustments this week it will be a nice step forward. We really stress the concept of playing one point at a time and not worrying about the game or set score."

Bemidji will be home today when it hosts Roseau-Warroad at 5 p.m.

The dual represents the lone action for the Jacks this week as they are off until Sept. 28 when they entertain Park Rapids.

BHS is coming off a fine showing at Saturday's Hibbing Invitational. The Lumberjacks finished second in the eight-team field with 453 points, trailing only Hibbing which had 487.

Individually Steph Frey was a double winner as the sophomore captured the 200 IM in 2:20.77 and the 100 breast stroke in 1:11.62. Frey also anchored the winning 400 free relay unit, teaming with Laura Yourd, Maris Jahner and Erin Arndt for a time of 3:58.96.

Lexie Hendricks claimed the 500 free in 54.49 while Jana Hedstrom was second in diving with 309 points.

Hendricks also was third in the 200 free (2:14.26) and Yourd was fourth in the event (2:15.35). Arndt finished fourth in the 200 IM (2:35.24) as did Alicia Papke-Larson in the 100 back (1:10.68).

Home fans also can follow the girls soccer team as it battles Moorhead at 5 p.m.

BHS also will visit East Grand Forks Thursday and heads to St. Cloud Apollo on Saturday.

Bemidji is coming off last Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Brainerd. Josie Spry scored 17 minutes into the game to tie the score at 1-1 but the Warriors notched the game-winner later in the stanza.

Neither team scored in the second half as defense and goaltending dominated play.

BHS will take a 5-5 record into today's game.

The Lumberjacks will have the opportunity to evaluate their progress today when they visit Hillcrest Lutheran Academy.

Bemidji dropped a 2-1 home decision to HLA in the second game of the fall and today's contest will offer the opportunity to monitor the improvement.

"We're a much better team now than we were then," said BHS coach Rick Toward. "But I'm sure Hillcrest is too."

The Jacks own a 7-2-1 record and, following last Saturday's 3-1 victory at Brainerd, they are unbeaten in the past eight outings.

Thursday the schedule continues with a home game against Hibbing and Saturday finds Bemidji entertaining St. Cloud Apollo.

Bemidji returns to action today at the Bagley-Fosston Invitational. The Lumberjacks have been off since Thursday when the boys and girls teams both finished sixth at the 17-team Little Falls Invitational.

Coach Ryan Aylesworth was pleased with the performances and is hoping for continued improvement today.

Bailey Drewes paced the girls team with a time of 15:31. Jenna Truedson was clocked in 15:36 and Kim Truedson in 15:52.

On the boys side Alex Schoneberger was Bemidji's top runner as he was timed in 16:56. John Buckanaga finished in 17:10 and Dan Clemenson in 17:30.

BHS will also be in action Saturday at a meet hosted by the University of Minnesota.

The Lumberjacks will entertain Roseau 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

Bemidji took a 5-6 record into Monday's match at Grand Rapids and the Jacks are hoping to regain the form which saw them open the year 3-0.

Bemidji will play the rest of the year without middle and right-side hitter Caitlin Hadrava. During the offseason the junior from Laporte moved into the Bemidji school district and became eligible to play immediately for the Jacks.

Last week, however, her family returned to their former home which is in the Laporte school district and, consequently, Hadrava is no longer eligible to play for Bemidji.

For the first time since 2001 the BHS gridders are 3-0 and they will try to maintain that unbeaten status 7 p.m. Friday when they host Brainerd in the annual Homecoming contest.

Last week Bemidji posted its initial road victory of the year when it thumped St. Cloud Apollo 28-7.

Offensively the Jacks collected 345 total yards, 217 of them via the run. Zach Declusin paced the ground game with 97 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Kevin Nelson also had a TD and 66 yards on 10 rushes while Jesse Eck ran six times, gaining 44 yards and scoring a touchdown.

Quarterback Mitchell Hendricks connected on nine of his 14 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ben Hengel caught five of the aerials for 77 yards and Carey Woods had a 20-yard TD catch.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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