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VOLLEYBALL: Bemidji plays Buffalo close but meets 3-0 loss in section quarterfinals

“It was really close,” BHS head coach Alicia Kriens said. “It could have gone either way, all three of those sets. When you look at stats, we didn’t play our very best game, but on the scoreboard, we’re right there.”

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Bemidji Lumberjacks
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BUFFALO -- The box score will say one thing, and the Bemidji High School volleyball team will say another.

“It was really close,” BHS head coach Alicia Kriens said. “It could have gone either way, all three of those sets. When you look at stats, we didn’t play our very best game, but on the scoreboard, we’re right there.”

The Lumberjacks suffered a tight 3-0 loss (25-23, 25-20, 25-21) to Buffalo in the opening round of the Section 8-4A Tournament on Thursday. Sixth-seeded Bemidji was down but not out for much of the night, yet the third-seeded Bison ultimately escaped with the sweep to end the Jacks’ season in Buffalo.

“It was just minor mistakes and (struggling) to string together points, that’s where we lost,” Kriens said. “We hung in there, we just couldn’t string together some points to make it happen.”

BHS (13-16) had an ideal start to the match, making a statement with a 4-1 lead behind a pair of Mollie Rupp kills. The Bison (14-10) answered back, though, assuming command late and holding a 21-16 edge.

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An Adie Potratz ace began a late rally from Bemidji, and the Lumberjacks ultimately cut back within 24-23 on a block from Beth Bolte and Brooklyn Saiger. But Kaia Caffee ended the comeback with a kill that clinched the first set for Buffalo.

Likewise in the second set, BHS fell in a hole yet methodically climbed back into contention. They came as close as 20-19 on a Bolte poke, but the Bison ripped off the net four points and ended things on another Caffee kill.

Bemidji stuck around once more in the third set, tied as late as 21-21, but Buffalo made the decisive separation. And for the third set in a row, the Bison leaned on their Ohio State commit to finish: Caffee sent down the fatal kill that ended the Jacks’ season in three sets.

“It’s really hard (to close out sets), especially against a tough team. They don’t give up a lot of points,” Kriens said. “When you give up a couple points in a row against a good team, it breaks your momentum and can end up in that loss.”

Bolte was the focal point of Thursday’s attack, finishing with 11 kills and hitting at a .357 percentage. She was the favorite target of setter Margie Anderson, who finished with 16 assists.

On the defensive end, Jordan Pemberton (11) and Potratz (10) each tallied double-digit digs, while Rupp had a team-high three blocks.

Bemidji loses four seniors to graduation in Elizabeth Oster, Jessa Stay, Bolte and Potratz, a core that will be sorely missed next season.

“There’s going to be no replacement for them,” Kriens said. “They’ve carried this program and have helped build it to what it is. Hopefully their legacy continues.”

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Buffalo 3, Bemidji 0

BEM 23 20 21 -- 0

BUF 25 25 25 -- 3

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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