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Chris Murphy, Published October 29 2013

Moorhead volleyball tops defending section champion Bemidji

MOORHEAD – There will be a new Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 volleyball champion, as Moorhead topped two-time defending section champion Bemidji 25-20, 22-25, 26-24, 25-23 Tuesday in the section semifinals at Moorhead.

“It was a game of jitters,” Moorhead coach Char Lien said. “They just had to relax and go out there do what they needed to do. When they did that, you could see that they knew it was tournament time.”

There’s a lot of things from Tuesday’s match the Sept. 5 Moorhead team, which was swept by Bemidji, couldn’t have handled.

Those Spuds couldn’t have handled a 19-14 lead getting cut to 19-18 like it did in Set 1 Tuesday.

Those Spuds would have struggled to get past a 25-22 loss in Set 2 after fighting back from trailing 18-13.

Those Spuds couldn’t have imagined turning a 23-21 deficit into a 26-24 win like they did in Set 3 after the Set 2 loss.

Those Spuds wouldn’t have been able to close the match on a 7-2 run, after trailing 21-18, as they did in Set 4.

Those Spuds couldn’t. These Spuds did.

“When we first played them, we didn’t talk as much,” said Moorhead outside hitter Alyssa LaFlamme, who finished with 13 kills, two blocks and three aces. “Everybody on the team was just energized. We’ve come a long way. Our team grew. We learned from our losses, and we knew what we needed to do to improve.”

It hadn’t hit Moorhead (17-11) outside hitter Olivia Ostlie until recently just how close her Spuds were to getting a trip to the state tournament. It hit her Tuesday harder than she hit her team-high 17 kills.

“I never really gave it much thought,” said Ostlie, who added three blocks, an ace and 15 digs to go with her 17 kills. “Then it hit me that all it’s going to take is Bemidji and Alexandria and we’re there. We’re halfway there.”

Moorhead will take on top-seeded Alexandria, which swept the Spuds two days before Bemidji did in September and topped the Spuds 2-1 at the Eagle Invitational later that month. That was a different Spuds team.

“We haven’t just grown with our skills, but mentally too,” Ostlie said.

The section championship is at 7 p.m. Friday in Fergus Falls, Minn. The Spuds look to win their first section championship since 2010.

“It’s another rival game,” Lien said. “(Alexandria) has been in our section a long time, and we figured we’d have to get by them to get out of the section. They have good leapers, good jumpers, good blockers, so we know they are going to come and bring the heavy-duty attack.”

The section championships since Moorhead’s have gone to Bemidji (15-14). The Lumberjacks will have to watch as a new champion is crowned.

“It could have gone either way,” Bemidji coach Teresa Colligan said. “It was a hard-fought game. Both teams came out to play tonight. We were able to give a nice showing, but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”

B (kills-blocks-aces): Colley 10-4-2, Colligan 8-2-0, Greendahl 5-1-2 (23 assists), Laakso 1-10-0, Chadwick 1-3-0, Lucken 0-0-2, Olson 0-0-0 (25 digs).

M: Gunkel 0-0-3 (47 assists), Uglem 11-0-1, Carney 6-5-0, Tollefson 7-3-2, Ostlie 17-3-1, Gulseth 0-0-1 (19 digs), LaFlamme 13-2-3.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548