Tigers shut down Somerset
Neither team is ready to call New Richmond and Somerset a volleyball "rivalry" yet.
But with the most vocal student sections seen at a New Richmond volleyball match in years, you could tell the fans put a heavy importance on the outcome of this match.
While the Somerset fans were making more noise than New Richmond's, the main competition was taking place on the court. And that's where New Richmond's play spoke volumes, sweeping the Spartans. The Tigers won the games 15-5, 15-10, 15-9.
Each team has its strengths. In this match, the Tigers used their strengths to take control, while neutralizing several of Somerset's best aspects.
Two of Somerset's keys are serving and blocking. Somerset's serving can usually produce ace serves or force opponents into passing errors. The Spartans only had one ace serve and the Tigers made very few passing mistakes.
"I wondered why New Richmond was at the top of the conference in digs," said Somerset coach Sara Eichten, a former New Richmond Middle School coach. "I see why now. Nothing hits the floor."
Eichten said the Tigers also set away from Somerset's best blocker, Julie Markfort, meaning the Tigers were usually able to swing away without worrying about getting their hits blocked.
With the Tigers able to cut loose on their hits, it put tons of pressure on the Spartan back row players. The Spartans were able to dig up a fair percentage of the Tigers' hits, but not enough to keep the Tigers from building a lead in each game.
New Richmond's fast starts were a big part of each game. They led 9-2 in the first game, 8-2 in the second game and 7-2 in the third game.
"It's hard to come back from an 8-2 deficit against a team like New Richmond," Eichten said.
New Richmond, playing on Senior Night, was led in hitting by seniors Jessica Mitchell and Nicole Borgen. Senior Shannon Timm also had an error-free hitting night, with eight kills and no mishits among her 15 attempts.
The Tigers served at 90 percent for the night, not one of their best totals, but they came up with several key serves. The Tigers were successful this match at location serving, finding openings in the Somerset side of the court.
Senior Rachael Powers got a start for the Tigers, reward for a season where she's improved significantly. "She played really well, she had a number of line digs because Somerset hits the line more than some teams," said Tiger coach Katy Call. "Her strength is in her passing."
Somerset didn't have a strong hitting night, with a team hitting average of .201. Erin Dodor had the best night hitting, with a .667 average.
Katie Potting and Kendra Steinlicht were the only Spartans who served at 100 percent for the match.
Both teams are now in WIAA tournament play, New Richmond in Division 2 and Somerset in Division 3. The opening round of tournaments were played Tuesday. The winners in Tuesday's matches will be back in action on Thursday night. The winners in Thursday's action will advance to the regional finals on Saturday.