Ashley Hofstad and Taylor Wade put on a show to remember for a buzzing BHS Gymnasium on Thursday against Alexandria.
Under the season-opening spotlight, the senior outside hitters lifted the curtains on the new season with a dominant attack that guided the Bemidji High School volleyball team to a 3-1 (18-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-21) victory over Alexandria under a playoff-like atmosphere.
“We’ve been working a lot with those hitters on mixing up their shots and being smart with the balls they’re given,” Lumberjacks head coach Alicia Kriens said of the duo. “They’ve done a really great job of utilizing that and listening to their back girl on what is open.”
The win marks six straight in home openers for Bemidji, dating back to 2014, with this being the first of the bunch to double as a season opener.
The first set started and ended as a dud for the Jacks (1-0). The Cardinals (0-1) jumped ahead 5-0, and though BHS scrambled for an 8-all tie, Alexandria pulled away from a 13-13 deadlock. Bemidji never found a groove, and the Cards cruised 25-18 in the opening set.
Things shifted in the second, though.
Hofstad took over the match, racking up six of her team-high 17 kills in the set to help the Lumberjacks recover from a 7-2 deficit. A Jody Pemberton kill put BHS ahead 14-13 -- its first lead of the night -- and Wade sent down a rocket of her own to clinch a 25-23 win.
“The first game, we were just getting all the jitters out, getting used to playing with each other,” Hofstad said. “I would say the second game (we settled in).”
Then Wade got hot in the third set. Bemidji surged to a 14-4 advantage on three Wade kills and an ace over a six-point span for a seemingly insurmountable lead.
The difference held at 20-10, but Alexandria stormed back with the next eight points. It was in time for an eventual 24-23 lead, which had the Jacks on their heels.
But Bemidji made a game-changing stand, first with an Emma Huberty block, then back-to-back kills for Pemberton and Wade to clinch a 26-24 win and ignite the stands.
“The thrill is unreal,” Hofstad said of the excitement. “Everyone’s cheering, and the whole gym is just loud. … You get the chills, that’s for sure. My voice is hoarse now.”
Nobody seized control of the fourth set, but finally BHS had a glimmer of an advantage at 21-19 on consecutive kills from Pemberton and Huberty. It fueled Jenna Anderson to solidify the feel-good win at 25-21 with a perfectly placed ace.
“First home game, lots of people, school’s about to start and everybody’s here,” Kriens said. “For our girls to take this game -- especially against Alex, who we lost to last year in sections -- it was a huge win for them. That’s just a confidence builder for us.”
Taylor Wade complemented Hofstad’s 17 kills with 14 of her own, while Emily Wade distributed 38 set assists. Hofstad and Anderson led the defensive efforts with 25 and 24 digs, respectively.
Mia McGrane led Alexandria with 11 kills, while Ella Grove finished with eight. Erika Roderick had 22 assists and four aces, and Madi Heid and Lexi Cole each had four blocks.
Up next for Alexandria is the home opener on Thursday against St. Cloud Apollo.
Bemidji 3, Alexandria 1
AAHS 25 23 24 21
BHS 18 25 26 25