VOLLEYBALL: Bemidji overpowers Nevis 3-1
BEMIDJI -- A year ago the Bemidji and Nevis volleyball teams both ended their seasons on Day 3 of the state tournament. The Lumberjacks lost in the consolation final of the Class 3A division while Nevis claimed the consolation crown of Class 1A.
Thursday in Bemidji the neighborhood rivals squared off and, as expected, both squads elevated their games. In the end, the Jacks prevailed 19-25, 25-19, 25-16, 26-24 in a back-and-forth battle that entertained the fans and gave indications that BHS and Nevis may be on the road to another state appearance.
Thursday's win was Bemidji's third after opening 0-3 while the Tigers dropped their first match after four consecutive victories.
"Nevis is always great competition for us," said Lumberjacks setter Alexa Greendahl who was a vital part of last season's run to the state tournament. "Last year we lost to Nevis in five games at Nevis but this year we found a way to win.
"And we're excited."
Greendahl was a busy lady Thursday as she served three aces, dished 41 set assists and orchestrated an offense that generated 53 winning kills.
Myria Colley delivered 19 of those winners and Brylee Colligan had 11. Also contributing to the powerful net game were Emily Falldorf with eight kills, Maura Chadwick with six, Greendahl with five and Claire Laakso with four.
Laakso had the honor of ripping the final blow as her spike gave the Jacks the winning point in the 26-24 fourth-game victory.
Defensively the Jacks were all over the floor Thursday. Karlie Leif and Colley both contributed 14 digs while Talia Lucken had 12 and Hanna Olson 11.
Greendahl knows what it will take for Bemidji to make another run at the state and she believes that the Jacks are on the right track.
"We struggled in our first three matches because we lost so many strong players from last year's team and it took some time for us to get together," Greendahl said. "But right now we are jelling and it's an awesome feeling."
The first game was tied 14-14 before Nevis put together a decisive 8-0 run which gave the Tigers a 22-14 advantage. BHS drew within 24-19 but the game ended when Denia Brown smacked a kill past the Bemidji defenders.
The Jacks recovered nicely in the second game, however. Whenever Nevis would score a point or two the Lumberjacks would counter with a run of three and that trend eventually resulted in a 22-16 BHS advantage.
The Tigers closed within 22-19 but Bemidji ended the suspense with three straight points courtesy of Greendahl's push, Colley's spike and a Nevis miscue.
"We were smart with our attack," said BHS head coach Teresa Colligan. "On offense we weren't just smashing. We were using tips and other weapons.
"We were concentrating on placement and seeing the court rather than using just a power game. And it worked well for us tonight."
The third game was up for grabs until Bemidji used a four-point run to up its cushion to 16-11. Another 5-1 spurt put the finishing touches on the 25-16 victory.
Both teams saved their best for last, however. Falldorf's spike gave the Lumberjacks an 11-8 lead midway through the battle but the Tigers countered with a 6-0 spurt to regain control.
A 3-0 run which included a spike by Colley and a combined stuff by Greendahl and Laakso knotted the game at 14-14 and no more than three points separated the teams the rest of the way.
The finale was tied at 24-24 when Bemidji broke Nevis' serve with a Colley blast and the home team notched the game-winner on the next series when Laakso's spike found the floor.
"This was a big win for us," Colligan said. "The chemistry was there tonight and I think the kids understand what they need to do to be successful.
"I think this match will help us move ahead."
Greendahl echoed that opinion.
"We're playing better and I think if we continue (to improve) we can take it through sections and go to state," she said. "The section looks to be even and we are the champs until somebody beats us.
"And nobody should beat us."