The Bemidji State University volleyball team opened its season by splitting two matches at Pittsburg High School in Pittsburg, Kan. on Friday.
The Beavers kicked off the nine-team Pittsburg State University Gorilla Classic by downing Northwest Oklahoma State University 3-0 (25-13,25-22, 25-19) before falling to Emporia State University by the same score (25-15, 25-18, 25-14) in their later game.
“The day as a whole I thought was a positive day,” said BSU head coach Wayne Chadwick. “Northwest Oklahoma State presented some issues that we responded well to as did Emporia State—all in all, it was a positive day.”
In the first match, Bemidji State quickly fell behind 2-0 in the first set, but an ensuing 11-1 run spurred the team to a 25-13 victory. BSU won a back-and-forth second set 25-22 after never having led by more than five points. The Beavers clinched a 1-0 record by pulling away early in the third set, leading by as many as 12, before thwarting a late NWOSU comeback attempt to win 25-19.
Senior captain Bethany Thompson (OH, Owatonna, Minn.) led the charge with a match-high 13 kills, while new starting setter Courtney Volkmann (So., Wadena, Minn.) chipped in 24 assists and three aces. Nine different players recorded at least one kill in the match.
“Sometimes the level of play got a little sloppy and you can’t get sucked into a small, sloppy game,” Chadwick said. “We have to make sure we play to our level and I think we did a good job of that.”
In the day’s second match, BSU faced the first of seven 2012 opponents included in the 2012 AVCA Division II Preseason Rankings in Emporia State, who received the 32nd-most amount of votes in the poll. After falling 25-15 in the first game, BSU dropped the second set 25-18 to the Hornets, who also entered the match with 1-0 record. ESU completed its second win of the day with a 25-14 third-set win.
Volkmann had 20 assists and four digs in the loss, while Kelsi Crawford (So., OH, Wadena, Minn.) stood out for the Beavers with seven kills. Thompson and Rachel Craig (So., MB, Wadena, Minn.) had five kills apiece as Thompson recorded a team-high five digs. Libero Elissa Christensen (So., Montevideo, Minn.) finished the day with 11 total digs.
“Emporia State was a more offensive team,” said Chadwick. “There were balls that were kills in the first game that stayed in play, so we had to be sharper defensively. The level of play was higher.”
Under Chadwick, now in his third season with the squad, BSU has started 1-1 in both 2010 and 2011 and has gone on to win its next two matches in season-opening tournaments.
The Beavers continue play at the PSU Gorilla Classic at 11 a.m. on Saturday, September 1 against host Pittsburg State. Bemidji State concludes the weekend against Rockhurst University of Missouri at 2:00 p.m. BSU will travel to Duluth, Minn. next weekend to compete in the Duluth Volleyball classic before beginning NSIC play at conference newcomer Minot State.