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Bemidji High School volleyball team earns first trip to state tournament

Teammates Kellie Morehouse (5) and Jenna Sagedahl (9) celebrate winning a point in Bemidji's 3-0 sweep over Fergus Falls in the Section 8-3A volleyball championship game at Detroit Lakes Friday night. Pioneer Photo/Brian Basham, Forum Communications

DETROIT LAKES- The Bemidji Lumberjacks hadn't advanced to a state volleyball tournament. That fact is not longer true after Friday night at Ralph Anderson Gymnasium.

Junior Jessica Yost smacked 23 kills to spark Bemidji to a 25-20, 25-21, 25-18 victory against Fergus Falls for the Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 championship.

'It's big for our community because we've never had anything like this, so this is huge for our community, for our team, for our program," said Bemidji head coach Teresa Colligan, who is in her 10th season.

"It means everything," said Yost, who also had four blocks. "We've worked so hard to get to this point and we are really at the top of our game right now."

Fergus Falls (23-6) saw its season end one match short of the state tournament, which starts next Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.

"I'm proud of our kids," Fergus Falls coach Renee Erickson said. "I'm proud of our season."

The Lumberjacks set the tone in the first set. Bemidji (24-8) had a stretch where it scored 11 of 13 points to help build a 19-8 lead.

The 6-foot-1 Yost put the opening set away with back-to-back kills to give Bemidji a 25-20 victory after the Otters had rallied to make it close.

"It's always important to get that first one and then our team just had the momentum," Colligan said.

Fergus Falls had a tough time containing Yost and Bemidji junior middle hitter Allie Heifort throughout the match. Heifort, who is 6-0, finished with 10 kills and two blocks. Heifort closed out a 25-21 victory in the second set with a kill.

"They do a nice job," Erickson said. "They attack, attack, attack. I think sometimes we play too timid."

The Lumberjacks scored the final four points of set 3 for a 25-18 victory that clinched the match. After the final point was scored, the Bemidji bench stormed the court to celebrate with the players who were on the court for championship point.

"It's our dream," Yost said. "It's been my dream for so long. We are the first volleyball from Bemidji to go to state and it just means so, so much."

Colligan said Yost has elevated her game late in the season.

"Jess has really come strong, especially in the sections," Colligan said. "She knows that her job is to be a leader and get out there and get as many kills as possible and that's really what she did."

Senior middle hitter Mariah Monke paced the Otters with eight kills and five blocks.

"I don't think we ever stopped believing in ourselves. We would get going and we would start to catch up and get on that roll and then we would get an unforced error," Erickson said.

"We are pretty tight-knit with Bemidji's crew and with their coaching staff. We have a ton of respect for them. They are going to represent us so awesome down at state and we wish them the best of luck."

BEMIDJI (kills-blocks-aces): Yerbich 0-0-0 (13 digs), Colley 0-3-0, Morehouse 3-0-0, McDonald 0-0-0 (9 digs) Bardwell 4-4-0, Sagedahl 0-0-0 (35 assists), Yost 23-4-1, Olson 0-0-1, Heifort 10-2-0.

FERGUS FALLS: Rasmussen 3-1-3 (20 assists), Harworth 0-0-1, Gaustad 5-1-0 (8 digs), Traiser 1-0-0, A. Monke 4-3-0, M. Monke 8-5-0, Smith 0-0-1 (8 digs), Hensch 4-1-0, Blondeau 0-0-3.

Eric Peterson is a writer for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. The Forum and Bemidji Pioneer are both owned by Forum Communications Co.