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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Jacks stunned 3-2 in upset thriller

Bemidji High School junior Kenzie Christianson (8) hits from the right side in the first set of the match against Alexandria in a Section 8-3A quarterfinal playoff game Friday at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)1 / 2
The Lumberjacks celebrate a kill in the first set of the match against Alexandria in a Section 8-3A quarterfinal playoff game Friday at BHS. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School volleyball team was locked in a back-and-forth thriller on Friday that featured high stakes, incredible individual efforts and momentum swings at a dime a dozen.

But it ended in heartbreak.

The Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize on a 2-0 advantage and four match points, ultimately losing its Section 8AAA quarterfinal match to Alexandria at the BHS Gymnasium.

“We had fire. We had so much fire the first two (sets),” Bemidji head coach Teresa Colligan said. “I felt like we had more of the fire in the beginning. And then (Alexandria) came out with fire… They came out with the energy, and we just couldn’t regroup.”

The gym was electric all night, never more so than when Anna Falldorf sent down a big kill to give No. 4 Bemidji a 14-12 lead in the winner-take-all fifth set. But the No. 5 Cardinals (16-12) ran off four points in a row from there, eventually putting away a scrappy BHS defense with a Kendra Hardy kill to clinch the set 16-14 and an improbable 3-2 victory.

After the first two sets, any life for a comeback looked near impossible.

The Jacks worked back from a 20-16 deficit in the first set, clawing within a point with a Rumer Flatness kill, Addie Colligan block and Paige Sundvall ace. The run continued as BHS broke through a 21-all tie, finishing off Alex with kills from Taylor Wade and Kenzie Christianson, followed by a rifled ace from Addie Colligan for the 25-21 win.

The momentum never left Bemidji in the second. After jumping out to an 11-2 lead through sloppy Alexandria defense and a Mikerra Mathews ace, the Lumberjacks held firm to its control for a 25-11 win, taking a 2-0 lead.

A seesaw of a third set saw the counterparts trade 17 points in a row, which the Cards used for a 19-16 lead. And although Bemidji got within striking distance of the sweep, they were put a bit on their heels as Alexandria forced a fourth set through a 25-22 win.

“They came out strong, hitting stronger. Stronger than what they had been,” coach Colligan said of Alexandria after the second set. “I think that they were giving us more tips and making more errors, and then we started making the errors.”

Opportunities were there in the fourth for the Jacks. After Makenna Quinn willed Bemidji back to a 19-19 tie with two kills, a block and an ace, a Christianson block made for match point at 24-22. The Cardinals wouldn’t be denied, however, as McKenzie Duwenhoegger responded with a kill and Hardy earned two straight blocks before a 26-24 decision forced the deciding fifth.

And although Alex looked to be in control by steamrolling its way to an 11-6 lead, a 6-0 run for the Jacks returned a healthy portion of momentum to their side. It was tied briefly at 12-all, but then kills by Quinn and Falldorf put Bemidji all but in the semifinals.

Four straight for the Cardinals, however, was a lethal run that dropped BHS from the section tournament. Hardy’s final kill gave Alexandria the improbable 3-2 (21-25, 11-25, 25-22, 26-24, 16-14) upset to shock the Lumberjacks.

Taylor Wade finished with a team-high 15 kills for Bemidji, while Quinn added 12 and Addie Colligan 10. Addie Colligan also racked up 39 assists and 13 digs, while Jenna Lewis finished with 16. Brooke Hildenbrand led BHS with three blocks, while the Jacks also recorded 10 aces on the night.

Bemidji finishes the year at 14-14 and will graduate seven seniors: Addie Colligan, Lexi Wade, Hildenbrand, Lewis, Quinn, Sundvall and Falldorf.

“It’s always tough. It’s a great, great group of girls,” said coach Colligan. “I’m gonna miss them all. It’s hard when you’ve been with them for years and years. They do become your kids.”

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Echo Press in Alexandria. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Alexandria area sports updates and jokes he thinks are funny.

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