Moorhead senior Kortney Carney (11) celebrates a point during the Spuds' three-set victory over Bemidji on Tuesday night at Moorhead High School. Photos by Tim Kolehmainen.
Focus is important for athletes to perform at a winning level, a fact made obvious Tuesday at Moorhead High School, where a night of celebrations and recognition gave the Spuds’ a fits-and-starts feeling against Bemidji.
Through the distractions, Moorhead bore down to sweep the Lumberjacks in straight sets, 25-15, 25-18, 25-21.
The match began with senior night ceremonies, as the Spuds’ five seniors — Kortney Carney, Callie Ahlgren, Lexi Gilbertson, Alyssa Knain, and Andie Kassenborg — were honored for their years in the program. Each gave hugs to her coaches and teammates while a lengthy bio was announced.
After a brief pause, Carney was also recognized for recording her 2,000th career set assist, which set off more rounds of high-fives and hugs.
Some of the Spuds were clad in pink socks and headbands in recognition of breast cancer awareness. It was also elementary and middle school night, and dozens of youngsters descended on the court during a break between the second and third sets to serve a few attempts.
Oh yeah, there was a match to play, as well.
Almost forgotten in the hoopla was No. 10-3A Moorhead’s match against Bemidji, a Class 3, Section 8 rival. It was the Spuds' only regularly scheduled match against a section opponent all season.
“I think there was just a lot of distraction,” said Moorhead coach Char Lien, whose team fell behind at the beginning of all three sets before rallying in each. She ticked off the list of events, even forgetting a couple, before laughing.
“Let’s all just jam it all in the same night,” she said.
Perhaps it was fitting that the honored seniors eventually led the way for Moorhead (12-5). Senior setter Kortney Carney dished out 28 set assists, senior libero Callie Ahlgren had 16 digs, and senior outside hitter Lexi Gilbertson pounded out 12 kill as the Spuds rallied past Bemidji (10-10).
“We’re really leaning hard on our seniors,” said Lien, who wanted them to think of senior night as an honor, not a farewell. She’d like to see her team reach a third consecutive state tournament and play well into November.
Bemidji led in the early stages of all three sets, as they started off strong thanks to key blocking from seniors Alexis Wade and Anna Falldorf, junior Rumer Flatness, and sophomore Taylor Wade.
“Any time you get a real nice dig or a real nice block, it gets them pumped up for a while,” said Bemidji coach Teresa Colligan.
Lien said Bemidji’s quick starts were powered by Falldorf and the rest of the 'Jacks blockers.
“I told our hitters she’s taking away your best shot, so you have to work around it," Lien said. "It took us a long time to figure it out.”
Moorhead trailed just 1-0 in the first set before going on a five-point run on Brook Carney’s serve. The deficits got deeper as the night went along.
In the second set, the Lumberjacks led 9-3. In the third set, Wade’s key block sparked a 7-1 Bemidji lead. But the ‘Jacks could hold neither edge.
“We needed to just power through," said Gilbertson, who credited communication for making up the deficits. "We came together and saw what we needed to do and went from there."
“We’ve been working on our pass and it went really well tonight,” agreed Carney. “With a good blocking team, coach stresses me to really spread the ball out, work their middle, and jump set so I can leave holes for them.”
Carney found Gilbertson the most often, but she also diverted the block by feeding juniors Brooke Walthall (11 kills) and Brook Carney (8 kills) at key moments in each of the Spuds’ rallies. Walthall also tied Ahlgren for the team lead in digs with 16.
After the victory, the Spuds lingered on the court to enjoy their evening of celebrations. It was a dry-eyed affair, though, as Lien didn’t want her seniors to look too far ahead and see the end of their high school careers coming any time soon.
“Just by looking at that short term, it’s going to pay dividends down the road,” Lien said. “Live the present. Live right now and enjoy this moment.
“So far that seems to be carrying well for them.”
Bemidji's Addie Colligan (2) had a team-best 21 set assists and added two blocks and seven digs.
Moorhead's upperclass contingent led the way on the Spuds' senior night, as they notched an important straight-set victory over Bemidji, 25-15, 25-18, 25-21.
Senior setter Kortney Carney dished out 28 set assists, senior libero Callie Ahlgren had 16 digs, and senior outside hitter Lexi Gilbertson pounded out 12 kills as the No. 10-3A Spuds (12-5) claimed a key Class 3, Section 8 victory against the Lumberjacks (10-10). All three were recognized in pre-game ceremonies along with fellow classmates Alyssa Knain and Andie Kassenborg.
Tuesday night's matchup was the Spuds only game against a section opponent this fall. Moorhead and Bemidji have combined for the past seven section titles, with the Spuds earning the past two.
Bemidji was paced by seniors Addie Colligan (21 set assists) and Alexis Wade (nine kills).
The MN Volleyball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.
Jalen Ennen (12) of Moorhead stretches out to keep the ball alive during the Spuds' three-set victory over Bemidji Tuesday night.