BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State volleyball team came out firing on all cylinders in its home opener Saturday afternoon.
Despite playing without a natural setter, BSU nearly upended St. Cloud State, only to come up short in five sets (25-10, 14-25, 27-25, 15-25, 13-15).
Sophomore Anna Averkamp led the Beavers (3-7, 0-2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) with 13 kills with junior Julie Touchett and sophomore Becka Cronin adding 10 each.
“I’m really proud of how they responded given our circumstances,” BSU head coach Kevin Ulmer said. “I’m really proud of our kids that were out there working every single point, battling back in some really tough situations, and being down in multiple sets and having to fight back.”
Despite never playing a game at setter since before high school, Mary Campbell filled into the role quite nicely, compiling 37 assists.
The freshman typically plays right side hitter or middle blocker, but was called upon to be the team’s setter due to the broken ankle suffered by freshman Maddie Mackinac -- the Beavers’ lone setter -- in a match last weekend. Mackinac is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.
“It was a bit of a learning curve, and I was still struggling kind of, but I love challenges so it’s pretty fun,” Campbell said.
Bemidji State opened the match with a convincing first set and quickly took a 7-0 lead that grew to 20-7 before ending 25-10. The Beavers hit .385 as a team with 13 kills and just three errors in their best set of the day.
“They were just so amped up to play today,” Ulmer said. “... There’s no making any excuses for how we’re playing and what our roster looks like right now. It’s just fight, all fight, all day long.”
The Huskies (6-2, 2-0 NSIC) recovered and evened the match with a 25-14 set-two victory.
In set three, the Beavers got out to an 11-7 lead only for SCSU to rally to a 20-16 advantage. However, BSU stormed back to tie the set at 24-all and claimed a 27-25 win after a couple of SCSU errors.
Again, the Huskies rallied to force a fifth set with a 25-15 win in set four.
SCSU opened the deciding set ahead 11-4 before the Beavers went on a 5-1 run to narrow it to 12-9. The Huskies took the next two points, but BSU then closed the gap to one at 14-13. SCSU clinched the match on a Linsey Rachel kill.
The way the Beavers hung with St. Cloud left Ulmer feeling optimistic about his young team.
“It’s a new feeling to be able to have a team at the end of the game that know they can win and believe in their teammates and put the game away,” Ulmer said. “... It’s such a fun feeling to have that opportunity.”
BSU had a strong day defensively, picking up 72 digs and 11 blocks compared to SCSU’s 64 digs and nine blocks.
“We’re definitely really scrappy, and our block has picked up a lot,” Campbell said. “We’ve been working hard on both of those things. Even before I got up here, I know in the spring we were working really hard on defense and that really shows.”
Bemidji State will be back at the BSU Gymnasium to host Minnesota Crookston at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11.