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Spartans enter tournaments with two losses last week

The Somerset volleyball team lost its final two matches of the regular season last week.

While the outcome was the same, the two matches couldn't have been more different in Somerset's view.

Last Tuesday the Spartans needed a win against Durand to tie the Panthers for second place in the Middle Border Conference standings. This was a showcase of two fine volleyball teams, with Durand pulling out a win in five games.

The Spartans then played at River Falls last Thursday in a non-conference match. The Spartans suffered a letdown in this match and fell to the Wildcats in three games.

In last Tuesday's match Durand beat the Spartans 25-14, 21-25, 18-25, 25-19, 15-7. This left Somerset tied with Prescott for third place in the MBC final standings, each team ending with a 4-3 conference record.

After Durand won the opening game the Spartans really found a groove, playing sharply to win the second and third games.

In the final two games, Durand's Liz Carlisle showed why she is one of the elite players in the conference.

"She just took over," said Somerset coach Sara Eichten. "She's a wonderful server."

Carlisle led the conference in service aces this season and is one of the top all-around players in the conference.

Neither team had big hitting nights, largely because both teams were playing so well on the defensive side of the net. The Spartans dug the ball up 48 times during the match.

This was also Somerset's best match of the season in terms of blocking. The team came through with a season-high 15 blocks as they timed their jumps accurately for the blocks. Julie Markfort led the team with five blocks, Megan Plourde had four and Staci Johanneck three.

Plourde also led the hitting effort, with 12 kills. Roxy Martin had the best hitting percentage, a .235 mark.

It seems that in every match there is someone different leading the Spartans' hitting game.

"It's nice to have the depth we do," said Eichten. "I'd love to see them all play well on the same night. They're so powerful when they are on top of their game."

The Spartans weren't on the top of their game in the 25-20, 27-25, 25-22 loss at River Falls last Thursday.

This was a match where the Spartans hit well, with the hitting percentage of .301 being one of their best averages of the season. But 13 serve receiving errors outweighed the good hitting night.

Markfort led the Spartans in serving, with three aces and a 100 percent serving night, her second straight match of perfect serving.

"That's something she's really worked hard to improve," Eichten said.

Tournament play

The Spartans started WIAA Division 3 regional tournament play on Tuesday in a match against Cumberland. The winner of Tuesday's match will be in action again this Friday, likely playing at Grantsburg, the team that drew the top seed in the region. Friday's match will begin at 7 p.m. The winner of Friday's match will advance to the regional final, which will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday at St. Croix Falls.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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