VOLLEYBALL: Bemidji leans on growth amid 3-1 loss

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Bemidji’s Kate Hildenbrand (9) and Beth Bolte (11) go up to block in a match Tuesday against Sartell-St. Stephen at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Alicia Kriens wasn’t too worried about the final score on Tuesday night.

A 3-1 loss to Sartell-St. Stephen (24-26, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20) won’t be the measuring stick that the head coach or her Bemidji High School volleyball team takes away from the BHS Gymnasium. Rather, the Lumberjacks (1-6) are insisting the emphasis remains on the day-by-day growth.

“Our whole focus is that we’re going to be better than we were yesterday, and I think we took a step up,” Kriens said. “If we believe that we can get there, we have the talent, we have the technique, we have the ability. We just have to really believe it now.”

The night was on track for celebration, as senior setter Emily Wade was sprinting toward her 1,000th career set assist behind a strong night for Bemidji. But, in the third set, she dove for a ball and collided with Beth Bolte’s leg, giving her a bloody nose and ending her night prematurely. She finished the match at 995 career assists.

Fellow senior Taylor Waukazo filled in for Wade, facilitating an offense that still showed signs of potency despite losing some wind from its sails.


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Bemidji senior Taylor Waukazo (16) sets the ball in a match Tuesday against Sartell-St. Stephen at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“With Emily going down and putting Taylor in there, it opened the girls’ eyes to see that it doesn’t matter who we have in there,” Kriens said. “We’re great all around. We can make it happen no matter what.”

The first set was a thriller, as BHS broke from a 23-23 deadlock on Allie Lillquist’s kill that highlighted the late dramatics. The Jacks prevailed 26-24 for just their second set win in their past 14.

“It was awesome,” Kriens said. “We talk about getting the side-out, and push one more. If we keep doing that, then that would be the win. We did that at the end. We got to that point where, usually, we start to buckle. … It was great to see them fight through all the way to the end.”

Despite all the positives, however, the Sabres (6-2) still came to play.

Sartell-St. Stephen closed the second set on a 14-3 tear, flipping a 15-11 deficit into a 25-18 win. The third set was much of the same, as the Sabres capitalized on fizzled momentum from Bemidji after Wade’s injury, winning 10 of the final 14 points for a 25-19 victory.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” Kriens said. “Second set, there were just some things that didn’t go our way. Third set, I thought we had it. And then when Emily went down, that kind of screwed up our lineup and where we were at. It was a little bit confusing in trying to get ourselves back on track again.”


The fourth set looked over in a hurry, as Sartell-St. Stephen surged ahead 15-5. So, without enough time to crawl back into contention, the Lumberjacks sprinted.

BHS started to feel momentum shift after a few attack errors from the Sabres, and Waukazo’s backward dump was a clever ball that brought Bemidji within three. Soon enough, the Jacks trailed just 19-18 after Kennedy Smith’s ace.

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The Lumberjacks celebrate a kill from junior Kennedy Smith (14) in a match Tuesday against Sartell-St. Stephen at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Two Sartell-St. Stephen kills and a double hit on BHS silenced the rally, and Ellie Rengel ended the night with a kill, but -- again -- the postgame mood was positive.

“If you can come back from 15-5 and make that comeback without your starting lineup, that’s huge,” Kriens said. “It was great for them to see that they can handle something like that.”

Wade finished with 22 set assists along with 14 digs in an impressive defensive effort, and Waukazo had 18 assists herself. Smith and Lillquist shared the team lead with 12 kills, while Bolte tallied 11. Jenna Anderson led the defensive efforts through 23 digs, and Emma Huberty posted a Bemidji-best two blocks at the net.

The Lumberjacks return to the floor at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 12, against Rocori in Cold Spring.


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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