A rare doubleheader format for volleyball produced two victories for Bemidji on Saturday by way of 3-0 (25-15, 25-9, 25-22) and 3-1 (25-22, 25-17, 20-25, 27-25) wins over Sauk Rapids-Rice at the Bemidji High School Fieldhouse. The wins were Bemidji’s first since its second match of the season.
Game 1: Bemidji 3-0 Sauk Rapids Rice (25-15, 25-9, 25-22)
Active defensive work and a varied attack shot the Lumberjacks out to a fast start against the Storm with two dominant set wins followed by a close third.
Bemidji used a pair of strong runs to build a lead in the opening set, stringing together six straight points to go up 9-2. Back-to-back aces on serve from Emily Wade further extended the advantage for the Lumberjacks.
Allie Lillquist wrapped up the opening set by dropping in the final point of a comfortable victory.
The Lumberjacks remained varied in their attack in the second set on the way to a large margin of victory. Hits from the outside and middle caught the Storm defense scrambling, and even the setter Emily Wade took advantage of an opportunity to swing when it came.
The story of the opening match, however, was the blocking of Bemidji middle Beth Bolte. Tallying an unofficial total of 11 blocks, she was a constant menace to the Storm attack, and a big part of helping keep Bemidji in front during a closer third set.
Game 2: Bemidji 3-1 Sauk Rapids-Rice (25-22, 25-17, 20-25, 27-25)
A refocused and readjusted performance from Sauk Rapids-Rice kept the second match close throughout each set, but Bemidji used a pair of big hitting performances to secure a second victory of the day.
Kennedy Smith and Lillquist provided some of the early attacks on the outsides and middle, once again helping Bemidji jump out in front to open the match.
Jody Pemberton’s hitting was a key part of Bemidji’s path to building leads in both of the first two set victories. Compiling 17 kills in the match, she was consistently on the mark hitting off the edge and received lots of opportunities to attack.
When she was not making big swings on the attack, Pemberton’s serves troubled the Storm as well, as she compiled a team-best six aces.
Despite losing the third set and finding itself locked in a tight battle in the fourth, Bemidji was able to squeeze out a close 27-25 victory in the set to wrap up the match and a second victory of the day.
The victories take Bemidji to 3-7 this season ahead of a readjusted schedule for this week. The Lumberjacks’ match with St. Cloud Apollo that was scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled, while their scheduled Thursday match with Sauk Rapids-Rice was played as part of the doubleheader on Saturday. A match at Fergus Falls rescheduled from earlier this season has now been added for Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Alicia Kriens: