BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School volleyball team survived a scare in its Section 8-3A Tournament opener after Big Lake roared back from two sets down to force a decisive fifth set. The sixth-seeded Lumberjacks prevailed in the winner-take-all set to clinch a 3-2 (27-25, 25-20, 13-25, 28-30, 15-13) win over the 11th-seeded Hornets on Wednesday night at the BHS Gymnasium.
“We knew Big Lake was going to really scrappy overall,” BHS head coach Alicia Kriens said. “Our serving wasn’t as clean as I would have liked it to be, but in the end we came up with the win and that’s what I told the girls. A win is a win at this point.”
The Lumberjacks (13-15) shot out to a 9-3 lead in the opening set before the Hornets (5-22) rallied to take their first lead at 18-17. Big Lake reached set point before kills by Taylor and Emily Wade regained a 25-24 lead for BHS, eventually securing the 27-25 win.
Despite a slow start to set two, the Jacks took control and cruised to a 25-20 win.
With their season on the line, the Hornets led wire-to-wire in a 25-13 set-three win to extend the match.
Neither team led by more than four in a thrilling fourth set that featured a whopping 19 lead changes and 18 ties. Big Lake started to pull away 23-20 until Elizabeth Oster and Emily Wade teamed up for a block that handed a 24-23 lead to Bemidji.
The set went down to the wire as it went to extra points. Kills by Olivia Stockham and Carter Monson finally sealed the 30-28 win for the desperate Hornets to force a fifth set.
“I think it was just our energy level,” Kriens said of the difference between the two set losses and the rest of the match. “We also let them have too many points in a row, which included a lot of our serving. We missed a lot of serves in game three and four and that really hurt us, especially in clutch times when you need that point.”
The teams continued their back-and-forth in the fifth set until Bemidji began to pull away after going ahead 5-4. A Kennedy Smith kill finished off an extended rally to give BHS its largest lead at 13-8. The Hornets scored the next four points but a service error and an ace by Ashley Hofstad clinched the Lumberjacks a 15-13 win and a spot in the section quarterfinals.
“We just tried to keep our head in it,” Taylor Wade said. “We knew we were the better team out there. We knew we were scrappier and we knew we could do it. We just believed in each other and believed in ourselves and just laid it all out there.”
Taylor Wade led the way for Bemidji with 16 kills, while Emily Wade and Smith followed with eight kills each. Emily Wade also posted a team-high 29 set assists.
On defense, four Jacks notched double digits in digs led by Jenna Anderson with 18 and followed by Hofstad’s 14, Emily Wade’s 13 and Anikka Takkunen’s 12. Oster came up with a team-high four blocks and Emily Wade posted three.
The postseason win was the first for second-year head coach Kriens and the first for BHS since 2016.
“The girls deserve it,” Kriens said. “They work hard. They just give it everything they’ve got and I’m hoping that we can just continue playing at that high level through the tournament.”
The Lumberjacks will travel to face No. 3 Brainerd (19-8) in the Section 8-3A quarterfinals at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25. Bemidji fell in four sets to the Warriors in their lone regular-season meeting Sept. 12.
“It’s going to be another tough match, another battle” Kriens said. “But I think we’ll come back to work tomorrow and get prepared.”