BEMIDJI -- Before Tuesday’s match with Moorhead, the Bemidji High School volleyball team had a pep talk together.
Beth Bolte recounted it: “Before the game, we all were like, ‘We are going to win this. We have to win. Something has to happen.’”
Oh, something happened all right.
The Lumberjacks swept the Spuds 3-0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-20), combining poise with heart for a spirited victory inside the BHS Gymnasium. The win snapped Bemidji’s eight-game losing streak against its rivals and was the program’s first triumph over Moorhead since 2014.
“Well, I didn’t know that. That means a lot,” head coach Alicia Kriens said. “It’s always great to beat Moorhead. It’s always a great match. Char (Lien) is a great, great coach. But it feels pretty good to beat them in three.”
FINAL: @bemidji_VB 3, Moorhead 0 (25-23, 25-19, 25-20).— Micah Friez (@micahfriez) September 29, 2021
What a fantastic performance from the Lumberjacks. BHS wins its first match over the Spuds since 2014 and clinches its first sweep over Moorhead since 2013. They’ll remember this one for a long time. pic.twitter.com/LJQwd4oEVR
The win comes even sweeter for a Lumberjacks team that felt the wrath of a Spuds sweep just 11 days prior. Not so on Tuesday, however.
“A lot of mental work (is what changed),” Kriens said. “We worked through a lot of that yesterday with two different drills: just finishing. However long it takes, we’re just going to finish it. And it paid off.”
In the first set, BHS (5-7) played the aggressor with an early 5-0 run. And it set the tone for the rest of the night. Bemidji’s block played strong at the net, the defense dug out powerful kill attempts and the attack often caught Moorhead on its heels.
“We really came out with a lot of confidence,” Bolte said. “Deep down, we wanted to win instead of thinking it was going to be a close game and that it could go either way. We were like, ‘It’s going to be a close game, but we have to push through it, and we know we can come out with a win.’”
Despite a 23-21 deficit late in the first set, the Jacks played undeterred. Bolte and Allie Lillquist rifled down kills on a closing 4-0 run, which delivered a 25-23 BHS win.
Bemidji rode that momentum into the second set. Although the Lumberjacks trailed 12-7, an unrelenting 9-0 burst brought on a 16-12 BHS advantage that Margie Anderson capped with a block at the net. The difference never slimmed under three from then on out, and Kate Hildenbrand split the defense with a rocketing kill that clinched the set at 25-19.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for,” Kriens said of responding to adversity. “I know they have it in them, it’s just getting them to believe it. To not go into panic mode, to not shut down when (opponents) go on some sort of run. … Getting them to believe that (is huge).”
The Spuds (5-7) played desperately in the third set, riding the efforts of Rosie Anderson in an attempt to avoid the sweep, but it wasn’t a clean enough effort to come back. A 16-16 tie developed into a 22-17 Bemidji lead thanks to six Moorhead errors, and the Jacks cruised to the 25-20 victory from there.
“I think that shows a lot about our team,” Bolte said of the win. “Even if we’re down -- and we’ve had rough games where we aren’t playing our best -- now we know where we can play and how good we should play every game.”
It was a balanced effort from BHS. Bolte had a team-best nine kills, while Elizabeth Oster had six at a .308 clip. Margie Anderson tallied 25 set assists and eight digs, and five Lumberjacks recorded at least one block -- none better than three from Lillquist.
Bemidji is back in action at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, when it hosts St. Cloud Tech at the BHS Gymnasium.
“Now that they’ve seen it, and they know how good they are… we can only build off of that,” Kriens said. “For them to gain a lot of confidence from tonight is huge.”