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Bemidji falls to Blaine in state VB opener; faces Owatonna Friday

Allie Heifort tipped this shot past the Blaine defense during Thursday’s quarterfinal match against Blaine at the state Class 3A tournament in St. Paul. Pat Miller | Bemidji Pioneer1 / 3
Bemidji’s Blake Bardwell (No. 8) and Timi Severson celebrate a point during Thursday’s state quarterfinal match against Blaine. Pat Miller | Bemidji Pioneer2 / 3
Alexa Greendahl delivered one of her 16 set assists during Thursday’s state quarterfinal match against Blaine. Pat Miller | Bemidji Pioneer3 / 3

ST. PAUL – Blaine used a varied arsenal to keep the Bemidji volleyball team off balance, and that firepower lifted the Bengals to a 26-24, 25-11, 25-19 victory Thursday in the quarterfinal round of the state Class 3A volleyball tournament at the Xcel Center.

Thursday’s setback dropped the Lumberjacks into today’s consolation round and an 11 a.m. match against Owatonna, which lost 25-4, 25-18, 25-11 to Eden Prairie.

After digging a 7-2 hole early in the first set BHS battled back to tie the game on four occasions, including 24-24 after a killer spike by Jess Yost.

The Bengals, however, responded with Jessica Jorgensen’s spike and Jorgensen’s tip to post a 26-24 victory in the all-important first set.

“We just couldn’t let Blaine get that run in the beginning,” said Lumberjacks co-captain Blake Bardwell.

“They were using aggressive serves, they had power and they used those little tips to put the ball in places we couldn’t get to.”

Blaine entered the tournament 29-1 and seeded second in the state field while Bemidji was unranked.

After the Bengals claimed the first set, they were able to use all of their weapons and keep the Jacks attackers in check.

“We knew Blaine was a quality team with quality scoring ability,” said BHS coach Teresa Colligan whose team will take a 23-8 record into today’s consolation round.

“In that first game we were able to go point for point with them but when you give all that effort and lose it is tough to get the momentum back.”

Trailing 11-5 in the first game BHS began its comeback with a pair of spikes by Myria Colley and another courtesy of Allie Heifort.

Another 3-0 run, featuring spikes by Colley and Bardwell, brought the Jacks even at 18-18 and the teams traded points through 24-24.

Blaine, however, eventually won the game when Jorgensen delivered her spike and her tip.

The Bengals continued where they left off in the second game, forging a 13-4 cushion and never looking back.

“We knew Blaine had a strong middle game and we couldn’t get our block up in time to stop it,” Yost said.

“Because we couldn’t get the block we made it tough on our defense.”

The Lumberjacks stayed with the Bengals early in the third game but eventually Blaine’s relentless pressure took a toll. The Section 2 champions used an 11-4 run to open a 24-14 lead and a late charge by Bemidji proved too little, too late.

“Going into the tournament our goal was to win the state championship but now our goal has shifted,” said BHS assistant coach Netti Homer. “Obviously, we’ll take things one game at a time and I think the girls will be focused on Friday.

“They don’t want to go home after only two matches.”

“This year we wanted to show that Bemidji volleyball deserves to be at the state tournament,” Heifort said.

“We’ll find out where we messed up (against Blaine) and we’ll correct it. I think we all realize what we need to do now.”

Yost and Heifort each ripped six kills and Colley contributed five. Greendahl dished 16 set assists while

Yost had eight digs and Colley, Greendahl and Jasmin Yerbich all had seven.

Yost assisted on three blocks and Bardwell and Heifort each teamed on a pair of stuffs.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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