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Somerset setter Sami Martell makes the most of an errant pass by punching the ball over the net to keep a play alive in a recent Spartan match.

Top-seeded Altoona ends Somerset volleyball season

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Somerset's volleyball team was hoping the momentum of wins over Prescott and Ellsworth would carry them to a victory when they played the top seed in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament bracket on Thursday.

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Altoona's girls didn't let that upset happen. The Rails ended Somerset's volleyball season by defeating the Spartans 25-14, 25-13, 25-22. Altoona then defeated Osceola in three games on Saturday to win the regional championship. Altoona will face Barron in the WIAA sectional semifinal this Thursday. That match will be played at 7 p.m. at Rice Lake.

Somerset began WIAA regional tournament play last Tuesday with an impressive three-game win over Ellsworth. Somerset, the fourth seed in the region, defeated the fifth-seeded Panthers 25-18, 25-15, 25-13.

"We played out of our minds," Somerset coach Sarah Praschak said of the victory over Ellsworth. "That was some awesome volleyball."

An overpowering net attack was the leading edge of the Spartans' attack against Ellsworth. Sarah Northey finished with match with 15 kills and Sarah Krig scored with 10 kills. They also led an effective blocking attack.

The Spartans spent the final weeks of the season sharpening their defense, trying to close up holes on the court that teams have been finding for points. That work paid off when they upset Prescott in the final round of Middle Border Conference play. It continued against Ellsworth.

But when the Spartans faced the hard-hitting Altoona team, the team's defense changed. Praschak said the team appeared overanxious, with the girls trying to cover more court than they were able to.

"I thought the last two wins would bring us more confidence," Praschak said. "We didn't start very well and our serve receive suffered."

After Altoona controlled the action in the first two games, the Spartans relaxed and played more to their style in the third game. Praschak said she thought the Spartans were gaining more and more confidence and if they'd won the third game, they would have pushed Altoona hard in the final games.

Praschak said this season's Spartans were a team that had to play at peak level to be successful.

"We were a team that had to work really hard to get a win, they didn't come easy," she said.

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