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Volleyball: Cardinals stun Bemidji in five in the section quarterfinals

The Alexandria volleyball team celebrates a point during its comeback from down 0-2 to winning in five sets at Bemidji on Friday. The win puts the Cardinals into the section semifinals against top-seeded Willmar on Tuesday. (Jillian Gandsey / Forum News Service)1 / 2
Alexandria junior Mia McGrane (5) tips the ball and scores in the first set of the match against Bemidji in a Section 8-3A quarterfinal playoff game Friday at Bemidji High School. (Jillian Gandsey | Forum News Service)2 / 2

The Bemidji High School volleyball team was locked in a back-and-forth thriller on Friday with Alexandria that featured high stakes, incredible individual efforts and momentum swings at a dime a dozen.

It ended in heartbreak for the Lumberjacks, and jubilation for the Cardinals.

The Lumberjacks were unable to capitalize on a 2-0 advantage and four match points, ultimately losing its Section 8AAA quarterfinal match to Alexandria at the BHS Gymnasium.

“We had fire. We had so much fire the first two (sets),” Bemidji head coach Teresa Colligan said. “I felt like we had more of the fire in the beginning. And then (Alexandria) came out with fire… They came out with the energy, and we just couldn’t regroup.”

The gym was electric all night, never more so than when Anna Falldorf sent down a big kill to give No. 4 Bemidji a 14-12 lead in the winner-take-all fifth set. But the No. 5 Cardinals (16-12) ran off four points in a row from there, eventually putting away a scrappy BHS defense with a Kendra Hardy kill to clinch the set 16-14 and an improbable 3-2 victory.

After the first two sets, any life for a comeback looked near impossible.

The Jacks worked back from a 20-16 deficit in the first set, clawing within a point with a Rumer Flatness kill, Addie Colligan block and Paige Sundvall ace. The run continued as BHS broke through a 21-all tie, finishing off Alex with kills from Taylor Wade and Kenzie Christianson, followed by a rifled ace from Addie Colligan for the 25-21 win.

The momentum never left Bemidji in the second. After jumping out to an 11-2 lead through sloppy Alexandria defense and a Mikerra Mathews ace, the Lumberjacks held firm to its control for a 25-11 win, taking a 2-0 lead.

A seesaw of a third set saw the counterparts trade 17 points in a row, which the Cards used for a 19-16 lead. And although Bemidji got within striking distance of the sweep, they were put a bit on their heels as Alexandria forced a fourth set through a 25-22 win.

“They came out strong, hitting stronger. Stronger than what they had been,” coach Colligan said of Alexandria after the second set. “I think that they were giving us more tips and making more errors, and then we started making the errors.”

Opportunities were there in the fourth for the Jacks. After Makenna Quinn willed Bemidji back to a 19-19 tie with two kills, a block and an ace, a Christianson block made for match point at 24-22. The Cardinals wouldn’t be denied, however, as McKenzie Duwenhoegger responded with a kill and Hardy earned two straight blocks before a 26-24 decision forced the deciding fifth.

And although Alex looked to be in control by steamrolling its way to an 11-6 lead, a 6-0 run for the Jacks returned a healthy portion of momentum to their side. It was tied briefly at 12-all, but then kills by Quinn and Falldorf put Bemidji all but in the semifinals.

Four straight for the Cardinals, however, was a lethal run that dropped BHS from the section tournament. Hardy’s final kill gave Alexandria the improbable 3-2 (21-25, 11-25, 25-22, 26-24, 16-14) upset to shock the Lumberjacks.

Hardy, Duwenhoegger and Mia McGrane all had 13 kills to lead the Cardinals. Tori Jeseritz added 10 as Alexandria finished with 51 kills as a team. Erika Roderick had all 51 assists, and Devany Johnson led the defense with 24 digs.

Taylor Wade finished with a team-high 15 kills for Bemidji, while Quinn added 12 and Addie Colligan 10. Addie Colligan also racked up 39 assists and 13 digs, while Jenna Lewis finished with 16. Brooke Hildenbrand led BHS with three blocks, while the Jacks also recorded 10 aces on the night.

With the win, Alexandria punches its ticket to the section semifinals against top-seeded Willmar. Willmar is 24-4 after sweeping St. Cloud Apollo in the quarterfinals, but one of those losses came to Alexandria in five sets on Oct. 5. 

The two Central Lakes Conference rivals will play on Tuesday night at 7 in Willmar. The winner gets the winner of Sauk Rapids-Rice (22-5) and Moorhead (19-9) in the section championship on Nov. 4.

(Eric Morken of the Echo Press contributed to this piece)

ALEXANDRIA 3, BEMIDJI 2

(21-25, 12-25, 25-22, 26-24, 16-14)

ALEXANDRIA - Erika Roderick - 1 kill, 51 assists, 1 ace, 7 digs; McKenzie Duwenhoegger - 13 kills, 18 digs, 1 block; Sierra Cory - 1 kill, 3 blocks; Kendra Hardy - 13 kills, 1 ace, 15 digs, 4 blocks; Mia McGrane - 13 kills, 3 aces, 21 digs, 2 blocks; Tori Jeseritz - 10 kills, 1 ace, 3 digs, 1 solo block, 1 assisted block; Devany Johnson - 2 aces, 24 digs 

Micah Friez

Micah Friez is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, he is currently studying Creative and Professional Writing at Bemidji State. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.

(218) 333-9789
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