2012 Preview: Can Somerset volleyball team repeat as Middle Border Conference champions?Last season, the Somerset volleyball team produced its first championship since moving into the Middle Border Conference a decade ago.
By: Dave Newman, New Richmond News
Last season, the Somerset volleyball team produced its first championship since moving into the Middle Border Conference a decade ago.
The Spartans graduated a large group of seniors from that team, including four all-conference players. Even with those losses, the Spartans do return several players who saw considerable varsity playing time last season.
The roster begins with six athletic seniors who have a wide array of volleyball skills. In Sarah Northey, Natalie Broome and Sarah Krig, the Spartans put up one of the strongest front walls of blockers that will be seen in the conference.
Northey has the most varsity experience and she will be one of the team’s left side hitters.
“When she gets in the flow, she can be unstoppable,” said Somerset coach Sarah Praschak. “She brings energy to the team.”
Krig stands 6 feet, 2 inches and her wingspan can make her menacing at the middle of the net.
“Her biggest strength is in her blocking. I’m seeing a tremendous skill in that,” Praschak said. “She’ll be quite a force there.”
Broome steps into the right-side hitter role. She has worked hard to develop a deep skill set.
“Her serve receive has dramatically improved,” Praschak said. “She’s probably one of my best readers of what’s happening on the court and she’s my biggest communicator.”
Taking over as setter this season is Sami Martell. She’s got excellent coordination and footwork and appears ready to take on this leadership role.
“Sami’s our quarterback,” Praschak said. “She’s getting more and more confidence, that’s a big step. With every game I see progress.”
Markell Penman moves into a much bigger role for the Spartans this season as one of the team’s left-side hitters. Penman has won over the coaches with the precision she shows in her play and her decisions.
“She’s just so consistent,” Praschak said. “She makes so few errors. She’s stepped up to be one of the leaders on the court.”
Emilee Wolf gets her first crack at full-time varsity play as a senior. She’s stepped up as a right-side hitter and she’s become one of the team’s strongest servers.
Four juniors have earned places in the varsity lineup. Miranda O’Rourke has earned one of the middle hitter positions. The coaches have been impressed with her progress.
Two of the juniors are competing for time as defensive specialist. Megan Starry and Rachel Helgeson have both had an impact with their passing skills. The team doesn’t have many players with extensive back row experience, so the libero role will be critical.
Junior Alyssa Willett is also being groomed to become a back row specialist.
“She’s got great passing skills and great down-ball skills,” Praschak said.
Bailey Paulus is the only underclassman to make the roster. The freshman will serve as the reserve setter as she gets groomed for a bigger role in future seasons.
“You wouldn’t believe she’s a freshman. She handles herself very well,” Praschak said.
The team has quickly shown in the pre-season that it is comfortable with competing at the varsity level. Many of the players with varsity experience concentrated on one position in the past. This year they are expected to play in the front and back row to help make up for the team’s lack of experience.
“Our offense might not be as strong (as last year) but with our defense, we should be competitive,” Praschak predicted. “The girls bring an energy to the gym and that should translate to the court.”
Praschak said she believes the conference is wide open this season, guessing that Osceola and Ellsworth will be the main threats. She said Somerset should be regarded the same way.
“I think (the champion) will be the team who rises to the occasion,” she said.