Somerset volleyball continues to evolve
Change continues to lead to improvement, so the Somerset volleyball team continues to change.
The Spartans played in a tournament in Altoona on Saturday. The Spartan coaches made more changes during the tournament and the girls reacted by playing much better defensively.
The first opponent of the tournament was state-ranked Altoona and the Spartans took the brunt of a 25-8, 25-16, 25-8 defeat. The Spartans played another polished program in the second round in losing to River Falls 25-15, 25-16, 25-7.
In both of those matches the opponents used tip and roll shots to find openings just behind the front row of Somerset’s defense. Somerset coach Sarah Praschak changed the team’s defensive alignment, having setters Alyssa Willett and Baily Paulus move up to provide coverage against the roll and tip shots. It put more pressure on the Spartans’ back row players, especially defensive specialists Megan Starry and Haley Bassett, but the changes led to much better court coverage.
When they moved to pool play, the Spartans put up an excellent battle against Colfax, losing 25-17, 25-19. The best came last, with the Spartans scoring a 25-18, 21-25, 15-2 win over Durand in the final match of the day.
“It was a great way to end a long season of tournaments,” Praschak said. “It was nice to leave with a win and team improvements.”
What pleased the Spartan coaches most about the tournament was the way the girls reacted to the defensive change. The team had not practiced the new defensive formation at all this season. When the coaches charted out the changes, the girls quickly adapted to the plans.
Another reason the Spartans were able to make advances in their defense was the effectiveness of middle hitters Kendrah Wink and Rachel Plourde on defense. They were getting a touch on a higher percentage of opponent’s hits, giving the Spartans a split-second more chance to make a good pass off those hits.
The Spartans used the tournament to get their outside hitters more involved in the attack. Miranda O’Rourke, Rachel Helgeson, Becca Olin, Tori Martell and Abbie Rivard all got extensive work on the outside and were able to contribute with several kills.
Last Tuesday the Spartans played a Middle Border Conference match at Osceola, losing to the MBC leaders by scores of 25-15, 25-13, 25-23.
The Spartans showed some spirit by pushing the conference leaders to the limit in the third game. Praschak said “it showed we still have a little fight in us. That’s a positive. You’ve got to thrive on those positives.”
The regular season for the Spartans was completed on Tuesday and they will begin WIAA Division 2 tournament play next Tuesday. The seeding meeting for the bracket is scheduled for Wednesday. The Spartans are in a bracket with Baldwin-Woodville, Ellsworth, New Richmond, Osceola, Prescott and St. Croix Central. The Spartans will play on the road in the opening round next Tuesday. Praschak said the destination will likely be Osceola, Baldwin-Woodville or New Richmond.