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Bemidji gains section final with comeback win at Monticello

Bemidji’s Blake Bardwell spikes the ball over two Monticello defenders in the Lumberjacks’ Section 8AAA volleyball semifinal match Tuesday in Monticello. The Jacks rallied from a 2-1 deficit to top the Magic in five games and will take on Fergus Falls in the section final Saturday. CLAY SAWATZKE | MONTICELLO TIMES

MONTICELLO – A trait that explains Bemidji’s success this season has been the never-give-up approach of its players and coaches.

There have been times this fall that the Lumberjacks have had their backs against the wall. In just about all of those instances, however, BHS has battled back and eventually found a way to win.

Tuesday night in the Section 8-3A semifinals at Monticello the Jacks, the No. 2 seed in the North Sub-Section, were backed into a win-or-go-home corner when they trailed the South’s top seed 2-1 in games.

But, as has been the case all season, they rose to the challenge.

A comeback effort worthy of a champion enabled the Lumberjacks to rally past Monticello 25-22, 26-28, 20-25, 25-18, 15-8. The reward for that monumental effort is a berth in Saturday’s Section 8-3A championship match against Fergus Falls which blanked Rocori 3-0 in Tuesday’s other semifinal at Fergus Falls.

Saturday’s match will be at a neutral site. When the teams met for the 2011 title, the match was held in Detroit Lakes. Bemidji went on to win that battle and earned the first state tournament trip in the program’s history.

After winning Tuesday’s opening game Bemidji saw Monticello rally and take the lead. But, all of a sudden, things changed in the middle of the fourth set.

“We were down 2-1 in games and down by five or six points in the fourth game,” said BHS coach Teresa Colligan. “But at that point the girls got pumped and got back the momentum.

“We ended up winning the fourth game and dominating the fifth.”

The rally was fueled by a few strategic adjustments and a renewed mental approach.

“Early in the match we seemed to be hesitant instead of confident,” Colligan said. “We weren’t playing with our normal passion.

“But when we trailed in the fourth game we got it together and we were excited about everything on the court.”

Everyone had a hand in Tuesday’s victory. Jess Yost contributed another spectacular performance with 19 kills and 25 digs. Timi Severson finished with 17 kills and Allie Heifort ripped a dozen winning smashes.

Alexa Greendahl set the table for those winners with 52 assists and she also contributed seven blocks. Blake Bardwell made her presence felt at the net with nine blocks and Myria Colley continually kept the ball alive with 26 digs.

“This was a good test for us and something I was happy to see,” Colligan said. “I’d rather see us win this way than to have a 3-0 blowout. Going into Saturday’s big one (section final), we wanted to be pushed.

“Monticello is a very good team and definitely pushed us. The girls are very excited about this win and about moving on. Our goal now is to carry this type of play into Saturday. We’ll have to be fired up and ready to go against Fergus Falls. And I think we will be.”

Section 8A

The East Sub-Section 8A semifinals were held Tuesday at Bemidji State University and the top two seeds, Lake of the Woods and Mahnomen, advanced to Friday’s sub-section title match at Bagley.

LOW downed Clearbrook-Gonvick 25-17, 25-10, 25-5 while Mahnomen blitzed Fosston 25-15, 25-18, 25-20.

Lake of the Woods and Mahnomen will meet for the sub-section championship 6 p.m. Friday in Bagley. The winner will take on the West Sub-Section champ 7 p.m. Saturday at UM-Crookston.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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