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VOLLEYBALL: Challenges present challenges as Beavers lose 3-1 to Golden Eagles

The Beavers hosted Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, falling in 3-1 fashion at the BSU Gymnasium. But for a moment, with the help of a challenge, Bemidji State was going to a fifth set with momentum in tow. Until they weren’t.

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Bemidji State junior Rylie Bjerklie (2) swings in the third set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Coach’s challenges are a new caveat to Division II volleyball this season. But as the Bemidji State volleyball team learned on Tuesday, implementation creates a challenge of its own.

The Beavers hosted Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, falling in 3-1 fashion (25-18, 25-22, 18-25, 29-27) at the BSU Gymnasium. But for a moment, with the help of a challenge, Bemidji State was going to a fifth set with momentum in tow. Until they weren’t.

“Basically I was challenging that the ball was over the plane of the net,” said BSU head coach Kevin Ulmer, who flashed a small green card a number of times to signal the dispute of a ruling. “(Turns out) that’s not challengeable. So the whole process that we went through shouldn’t have even happened.”

The play in question came deep in the fourth set. Bemidji State led 27-26, and Beaver junior Rylie Bjerklie turned a bad UMC dig into a block at the net when it drifted her way. But the official ruled her to be over the plane of the net, which is illegal after an opposing team’s first hit, and therefore awarded UMC the point.

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Bemidji State sophomore Ashley Crowl (8) passes a serve in the first set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Ulmer challenged, and the ruling was overturned after a lengthy review.

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Until -- following another extended inspection -- it was overturned again back to the original call on the grounds of the play being a non-challengeable judgment call.

“I shouldn’t have been able to make a challenge,” Ulmer said. “Most likely, the ball was in the plane of the net and it should have been a back-row block. … The game should have been over. But it’s all based on their interpretation.”

The double reversal ultimately leveled the score at 27-27, and BSU surrendered the next two points with attack errors from Lauren Sitter and Bjerklie. Instead of going to a fifth set with all the momentum, Bemidji State was stuck with a four-set disappointment.

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Bemidji State senior Annie Hopp serves the ball in the second set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“That’s what happens when you hit the ball out of bounds. You have to take care of the ball,” Ulmer said of the last two points. “We came in way too tentative to this match. Statistically, we’re a better team than them, but we didn’t play that way.”

The Golden Eagles (3-14, 2-7 NSIC) handily controlled the first two sets. They won 25-18 and 25-22 behind Bailey Schaefer’s attacking, and a potential fifth set seemed very far away.

But Meeghen Dahlager rallied BSU (3-14, 2-7 NSIC) with a monster third set, recording six kills in the third frame alone and powering a 25-18 turnaround.

“She had a very good night,” Ulmer said of Dahlager. “She was one of the big factors to that set.”

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Bemidji State senior Meeghen Dahlager (17) tips the ball around the block in the fourth set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

The fourth frame was tighter, as nobody ever led by more than three, yet it looked ever so slightly slanted in Bemidji State’s favor.

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Sitter and Ashley Crowl sent down game-saving kills with Minnesota Crookston on match point, and then a UMC attack error put the Beavers in front 27-26. But, aside from a challenged call that officially never happened, that was last call for Bemidji State’s hopes.

“You’ve got to have confidence that you’re capable of more,” Ulmer said. “Right now, this is something that hurts their confidence because we’ve got a history of doing this against teams we can beat. Until we get over that hump and that confidence takes over, they’re going to have to dwell on it a little bit. But not for too long. … We’ve got the No. 3 team in the nation on Friday.”

BSU’s Hallie Mertz had a team-best 14 kills in the match, while Dahlager tallied 11 and Sitter 10. Bjerklie was active at the net with five blocks, while Annie Hopp racked up 17 digs. Emily Wade (22 assists) and Hally Holker (20) also split setting duties, as usual.

Coming to town next is No. 3 Concordia-St. Paul in a match scheduled for 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, in the BSU Gymnasium.

Minnesota Crookston 3, Bemidji State 1

UMC 25 25 18 29 -- 3

BSU 18 22 25 27 -- 1

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Bemidji State junior Hallie Mertz (24) swings in the fourth set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji State freshman Hally Holker (6) sets the ball in the first set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Beavers celebrate a point in the fourth set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji State senior Rylee Pompa tips the ball in the second set against Minnesota Crookston on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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