Bemidji found itself the latest victim of Willmar’s early-season dominance in volleyball, as the Lumberjacks were defeated 3-0 (25-15, 25-11, 25-21) last night at Willmar High School.
The Cardinals have yet to drop a set this season in starting 4-0, and showcased their collective talent with a varied attack and considerable height at net.
Bemidji stayed in touching distance early in the first set thanks to some good early energy in both defense and attack. Allie Lillquist provided an early kill from the middle to keep the Lumberjacks close down 6-5.
Beth Bolte picked up where she left off from a good performance against St. Cloud Tech last Thursday in somewhat odd fashion, as a mis-hit shot still caught the Cardinal defense off guard for another opening set point.
Bemidji’s net defense did well to match that of the Cardinals, as the Lumberjacks picked up a dozen blocks on the night. Elizabeth Oster rose up at the net to send one such shot back after the Cardinals had opened up a five-point advantage midway through the first.
Willmar reeled off three straight points following the block to hold an 18-11 lead before later winning the final five points of the set to take the first 25-15.
Kate Hildenbrand started the second set with a well-angled shot that caught the back line, putting Bemidji on the board first.
Despite starting the second set well at 3-3, the Lumberjacks saw the Cardinals rip off six straight points from there to take a lead they would never relinquish. Hildenbrand provided another good kill off the outside as the Lumberjacks found opportunities to press the defense infrequent.
After losing 25-11 in the second set, the visitors responded with a third set that was competitive from the beginning. Bemidji jumped to a 5-2 lead before going back up 8-5 following a kill from Kennedy Smith and an ace from Taylor Waukazo in back-to-back points.
Not long after, Bemidji took its largest advantage at 10-6 thanks to a scrambled shot from Lillquist that dropped in the Willmar end.
The Cardinals swiftly answered back, winning the next six points to retake the lead for good and hold off Bemidji down the stretch for a 25-21 third set margin and a clean sweep of the match. However, postgame consensus from coaches Alicia Kriens of Bemidji and Traci Grussing of Willmar was complimentary of the overall energy and play of the match by both sides.
Hildenbrand tallied an unofficial team-high of five kills for Bemidji, followed by Lillquist and Smith’s four. Elizabeth Oster also notched five blocks at the net.
The Lumberjacks drop to 1-2 with the loss and will return home to the Bemidji High School Fieldhouse for a Tuesday meeting with Section 8AAA rival Moorhead. Match time will be 7pm, with pregame at 6:45 on KBUN-FM 104.5 and kbunsportsradio.com.