LUMBERJACK THROWBACK: A Memorable, Shorthanded Rally For Bemidji Volleyball Against Perham (9-25-17)

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, KBUN Sportsradio presents a “Lumberjack Throwback”, as we recall a memorable Bemidji High School game from recent years through archived highlights and interviews. A comeback effort is always a memorable one, but Bemidji volleyball’s five-set rally against Perham in 2017 had a lot of adversity that came with it…

The Lumberjacks had started the 2017 season with a strong opening three games, winning against Minneapolis Washburn, St. Cloud Tech, and Detroit Lakes while only dropping one set in that span. But the next seven games had seen a downturn in results, as the Jacks went 2-5 beginning with a heartbreaking loss in five sets at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton. Entering the Perham match, Bemidji had lost three straight matches and had just been swept by Grand Rapids on the road.

It was a good time to return home for the Lumberjacks, who had not played in the BHS Fieldhouse since their home opener Aug. 29 when they defeated Tech 3-0. On Sep. 25, 2017, they finally returned for a matchup against Perham.

The Section 8AA-based Yellowjackets were no slouch and had built up some great momentum heading into the match. After starting the season 2-4, they were now 10-5 after winning eight of their previous nine matches, including seven in a row. Even more impressively, they had not dropped a single set during that streak, which included a perfect 4-0 day at a tournament in Minnewaska.

The opening set started with proof of Perham’s confidence and momentum, as the visitors built an 11-4 advantage in the early go. Bemidji worked its way back into it fairly quickly, taking the lead at 18-17 not long after. After Bemidji forced an extension of the set on an Emma Muller ace to tie it at 24, Perham would win the next two points to escape with its 17th consecutive set win.

Bemidji responded with a roaring start to the second, building a 9-1 lead that eventually was extended to 11-2. The Yellowjackets would not go away, quickly trimming the margin to 12-10 before the teams started trading points. Perham closed the gap late to tie the set at 22-apiece, but a kill from Lexi Wade and two misplays by the Yellowjackets ensured Bemidji took the second 26-24 to even the match at one.

The match took a drastic turn in multiple respects for Bemidji in the third. Perham rocketed to a 15-5 lead early in the set, as the Jacks could not find any measure of consistency. One of the major reasons why was the other key turn of events–senior setter Addie Colligan, who would surpass the 1,000-assist mark for her time with the Bemidji varsity that season, started feeling sick during the third and was quickly pulled from the rotation. Mikerra Matthews and freshman Emily Wade now had to pick up the setting duties for Bemidji, which initially struggled to adjust to the new alignment and absence of its influential floor leader in losing the third 25-12.

Suddenly, the Lumberjacks were a set away from losing the match. What followed was an unforgettable display of team fortitude.

Bemidji launched to a 12-5 lead to begin the fourth set, as outside hitter Lexi Wade started to pummel big shots for the Lumberjacks. With Makenna Quinn and Taylor Wade also starting to swing hard, the Jacks held off another mid-set rally from Perham to build the lead to eight. Another big shot by Lexi Wade to the back corner–one of 21 kills from her that evening–brought the increasingly boisterous home crowd into a frenzy as the Lumberjacks emphatically won the fourth 25-17 to force a decisive fifth set.

What made it all the more impressive in the fourth was that Bemidji had lost yet another setter to illness, as Emily Wade also exited during the course of the set.

The momentum gained by the home team was briefly stalled to open the fifth, as the two teams traded the opening four points in a 2-2 start. But then came the decisive push: six of the next seven points were won by the Lumberjacks, as a combination of their hitting and shaky Perham passing opened up a crucial early advantage in the race to 15. Quinn dropped the hammer on another of her 15 kills and Matthews–one of the last natural setters remaining in the rotation–popped in an ace on serve to put Bemidji ahead 14-6.

After a brief run by Perham, one final shot long ensured that the Lumberjacks had completed a tremendous turnaround with a 15-9 victory in the fifth set.

The memorable victory started a three-match winning run for the Lumberjacks, who would later finish the season at 14-14 after a five-set quarterfinal loss in the Section 8AAA playoffs against Alexandria. But among the standout moments of the year was the tremendous character victory against Perham on home floor.

Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Teresa Colligan:

COMING TUESDAY: A home-run parade…in one inning.