BEMIDJI -- Many Lumberjack fans have borne witness to Margie Anderson’s sensational breakout season with the Bemidji High School volleyball team this fall.

But her biggest supporter -- Mom -- hasn’t been in the stands.

“She’s like my No. 1 fan,” Anderson said. “Tonight, if she was here, she’d be screaming her head off.”

Anderson’s mother, Sarah, died of breast cancer in April 2020. That’s why winning on Tuesday -- the team’s breast cancer awareness night -- was so important.

“(Her teammates) were the ones who came to me, saying, ‘Hey, we want to do this for Margie,’” BHS head coach Alicia Kriens said. “That was upperclassmen saying to a freshman, ‘We see you, we support you. We want to be there for you and dedicate this match to your mom.’”

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Bemidji freshman Margie Anderson sets the ball in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji freshman Margie Anderson sets the ball in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Jacks delivered on the court, defeating Duluth East 3-1 (25-18, 25-17, 15-25, 25-16) in front of a sea of pink fans at the BHS Gymnasium. Teammates decked out in pink accessories like shoelaces, hair ribbons and T-shirts, proving that they were behind Anderson all the way.

“I’m really grateful that they all care that much about me,” Anderson said. “They really wanted to embrace (this night).”

Anderson racked up 36 set assists in Tuesday’s match, distributing passes to a wide range of teammates and flashing smooth chemistry. Although she’s just a freshman, Anderson’s entry to the varsity level has been met with a success that bodes well for the program’s future.

“A lot of people were questioning if Margie could handle it and if she was going to be ready,” Kriens said. “There really wasn’t ever a doubt in my mind.”

Bemidji didn’t have its best stuff on Tuesday, but the Lumberjacks (12-10) still won with relative ease.

Bemidji senior Kennedy Smith (14) passes a serve in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji senior Kennedy Smith (14) passes a serve in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

They separated with a late 8-0 run in the first set, with Anderson assisting Elizabeth Oster for the final kill, and they ultimately reeled off an 11-2 stretch to finish the set at 25-18.

In the second, opening with a 6-0 head start put BHS on top for good. And just as the Greyhounds (9-12) inched back within 19-15 to try to steal the win, Kate Hildenbrand turned Anderson passes into three straight booming kills that cranked up the heat. Anderson soon assisted a Kennedy Smith kill, and Oster tapped down the final point for the 25-17 victory.

Bemidji played flat-footed in the third set, fumbling through an out-of-sorts frame. Duluth East closed on a 15-4 burst to win 25-15, but the night belonged to the Lumberjacks from then on out.

Anderson fed Hildenbrand for a fourth-set kill that jump-started a decisive 8-2 surge. Anderson even got in on the block on the penultimate point, and a fatal attack error from the Greyhounds wrapped up the match with a 25-16 decision.

Bemidji senior Allie Lillquist (1) hits from the middle in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji senior Allie Lillquist (1) hits from the middle in the second set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji junior Elizabeth Oster (10) blocks the ball in the first set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji junior Elizabeth Oster (10) blocks the ball in the first set against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“Even though we may have not played our best, we still pulled through,” Anderson said. “We can pull through with each other. It shows that we care.”

Even with a freshman setter, BHS has steadily improved to where a third-set loss hardly fazes them anymore. Especially on a night as sacred as Tuesday, nothing was going to stand in Bemidji’s way.

“That shows huge things for our team, how much they care about each other and how much they really want to be there for one another,” Kriens said. “They’ve accepted Margie for everything she is and everything she brings to our team.”

With the memory of her mother spurring her on, Anderson has created plenty of moments to remember with her teammates.

“My mom would have loved to even just be here, and especially to watch us win,” Anderson said. “We’ve made really good memories so far, and it was really fun to pull off a win tonight with my team.”

The Lumberjacks will close the regular season with the Chaska Invite, starting at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 23.

The Lumberjack student section cheers during a match against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
The Lumberjack student section cheers during a match against Duluth East on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)