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Spartans now 4-0, await the other MBC leaders

Entering this week, Somerset was one of three teams perched atop the Middle Border Conference standings with spotless 4-0 records.

By the end of play next Tuesday, at most, only one team will remain with an unblemished record.

Somerset reached the 4-0 record last Thursday by topping Prescott in four games.The Spartans were scheduled to play at Amery on Tuesday. At the same time, Osceola and Durand, the other two teams with 4-0 records, were scheduled to clash.

That leads into the final two rounds of MBC play. This Thursday Somerset will be at home against Osceola, while Durand hosts Ellsworth. The final round of MBC action will be played next Tuesday, when Somerset travels to Durand and Osceola gets a visit from New Richmond.

This will also be a big week because the WIAA seeding meetings are scheduled for this Sunday. Somerset again will be in the same regional as Grantsburg and St. Croix Falls. Somerset coach Sara Eichten said she is hoping to get the third seed behind those two area powerhouses.

In last Thursday's match against Prescott, the Spartans scored a 25-21, 20-25, 25-15, 27-25 win. In the first and third games the Spartans used a relentless net attack to be in control.

In the second game Prescott was the team that put together some nice hitting streaks, mostly due to the play of Jamie Westby and Kayla Snapp.

The fourth game was the most dramatic. Somerset started with leads of 7-3 and 9-6, but Prescott came back to take a 13-10 advantage. Somerset tied the score at 13-13 and from that point on, neither team had a lead bigger than two points.

Prescott had a 25-24 lead and was serving for the game-winner, but the Spartans came up with three big plays to finish off the match. First senior Staci Johanneck capped a huge night with a kill that tied the score at 25-25. On the next play Spartan sophomore Megan Plourde put away the kill to give Somerset the lead. The final point of the night was scored when Somerset setter Mallory Rorabeck tipped a shot to an open area of the court.

Leading the Spartans to the win was Johanneck, who had 19 kills and a .382 hitting percentage from her middle hitter station.

"If you're going to put up a single block against Staci, she'll eat you alive," said Somerset coach Sara Eichten.

One part of the Spartan attack that worked all night was the quick set for Johanneck. Prescott's blockers couldn't get to the net fast enough and the Spartan middle hitters got a number of clean hits off these quick attacks.

The Spartans finished the night with 52 kills. Caleigh Hoiland was second on the team with 10 kills. Rorabeck had 44 assists as the Spartan setter.

Both teams played excellent defensive ball, with many powerful hits being dug up on both sides of the net. Hoiland led the Spartans with 11 digs, followed by Lisa Borgstrom with nine and Rorabeck and Ciara Landry with eight each.

The only down point to Somerset's play in this match was missed serves. The Spartans had 10 ace serves, but that doesn't outweigh the 15 serves they missed in the match.

Altoona tournament

On Saturday the Spartans saw some excellent competition while playing in a tournament in Altoona.

The Spartans won five of the 10 games they played in the tournament, finishing sixth among the 12 teams.

What was probably most beneficial for the Spartans in this tournament was the closeness of the competition. In the five games the Spartans lost, the largest margin was five points.

The Spartans swept matches with Winter and Cumberland and they split with a much-improved River Falls team. They were beaten in close matches with Altoona and Merrill.

Eichten said the Spartans did an excellent job of maintaining a high level of play during an extremely long day of volleyball. In all five of the team's matches the Spartans had a hitting percentage above .200. The best percentage came in the 25-15, 25-13 win over Cumberland, when the Spartans hit at a .392 clip.

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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