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Bemidji stays undefeated with gritty 3-0 sweep of Thief River Falls

Bemidji’s Blake Bardwell, left, tips the volleyball over Thief River Falls blocker Madison Brekke on Tuesday evening. The Lumberjacks swept the Prowlers 25-21, 27-25, 25-16. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI – There were many opportunities for the Bemidji volleyball team to conserve energy in the second game of Tuesday’s match against Thief River Falls and be satisfied with a 1-1 deadlock heading into the third game.

But this year’s team doesn’t believe in holding back. This year’s team has demonstrated that it will battle to the bitter end.

That never-say-die approach paid dividends Tuesday in a 3-0 Bemidji sweep. 

After winning the first game 25-21, Bemidji rallied from a 17-13 deficit to outlast the Prowlers 27-25 in the second game.

And Thief River Falls had nothing left for the finale as the Jacks crushed their guest 25-16.

“Last year we might have lost that second game but not this year,” said Bemidji senior hitter Blake Bardwell. “This year we keep each other up more. We comfort each other and don’t worry about being behind or losing a point because we know we’ll get the next ball.”

That philosophy helped the Lumberjacks tie the game on winning spikes by Allie Heifort and Jess Yost, Hanna Olson’s ace and a blown spike by the Prowlers.

The visitors answered with a 3-0 run to temporarily regain control at 20-17 but another BHS rally – which featured another Yost ace, Timi Severson’s spike and a Prowler miscue – knotted the score at 20-20.

The teams traded a series of points and after a winning spike Thief River Falls had a 25-24 advantage.

At this point, however, the Jacks went to work. A serving error tied the game and set the table for Severson’s winning blast and winning stuff.

The game – and, as it turned out, the match – was over.

“Once we won that second game we had a lot of confidence heading into the third game,” Bardwell said.

“Good teams will find a way to win those close games and those big points, and I think we’re getting to that point,” Lumberjacks coach Teresa Colligan said.

“At this time in the season we’re seeing some very good things.”

Among Bemidji’s weapons is an imposing front court which includes Severson (6-foot), Bardwell (5-11), Claire Laakso (5-10), Yost (6-1), Heifort (6-0) and sophomore setter Alexa Greendahl (5-9).

Greendahl also is developing as a setter, and Tuesday she dished 36 set assists. Bemidji’s passing also was crisp and precise and when all three phases are working in unison as they were Tuesday, the Lumberjacks will be difficult to defend.

“Alexa is doing a great job of setting and our passing is much better,” Colligan said. “Our serve receive was very good. Thief River Falls gave us some tough serves but we were able to make something out of them.”

“We have six hitters who can hit from anywhere on the floor,” Bardwell said. “With our big front we can intimidate the other team and force them to adjust. We can push the blockers from pole to pole with our hitters because they don’t know where the ball will come from.

“I know when teams can do that to us it drives me crazy.”

Opponents can expect to be driven crazy by the Lumberjacks this fall. In three matches this year Bemidji, the defending Section 8-3A champion, is yet to lose a game and it hopes to continue that trend Thursday when Moorhead comes to town for a 7:15 p.m. battle.

NOTES: Yost was honored before Thursday’s 3-0 match over Detroit Lakes for her 1,000th career, which she recorded in last year’s state tournament.

She added 19 more Tuesday night.

Heifort and Severson each contributed nine. As a team the Jacks ripped 44 kills …

Yost and Bardwell each finished with three blocks while Greendahl, Yost and Severson had two aces and Jasmin Yerbich 12 digs. Yost added 10 digs and Olson nine. 

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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