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Spartans net win over Tigers in MBC opening round

The New Richmond volleyball team got out to a fast start in the 2005 renewal of its rivalry with Somerset.

But it was the Spartan girls that had the stronger finish. New Richmond won the opening game by a 25-17 score. Somerset then won the next three games 25-18, 25-18, 25-20 to capture the match in the first round of Middle Border Conference play this season.

The difference in the final three games was consistency. New Richmond had bursts where it looked like a top quality team. But the Tigers were also prone to letdowns and the Spartans were quick to take advantage of their scoring openings.

Both teams feature formidable hitting attacks. New Richmond was the first to get its net attack on track, pulling away in the first game. Kelsie Abramson and Sara Leahy came up with big kills to help the Tigers pull ahead in the first game, while Somerset's younger players looked a bit tense at the start.

Somerset got off to a quick start in the second game. It set a pattern, where the Tigers appeared to be playing catch-up to the Spartans in each of the three games.

Senior Roxi Martin came through time and again with big plays whenever the Tigers threatened Somerset's leads in the final three games. She finished the match with four ace serves, eight kills and a .200 hitting percentage.

"She sees the court better than anybody out there," said Somerset coach Sara Eichten. "She finds the open spot and puts the ball there."

The Spartans built a 24-14 lead in the second game before the Tigers tried a late rally, which ended with a 25-18 Somerset win.

In the third game the Tigers led for much of the first half of the game, leading 13-10 midway through. Somerset then took advantage of several mishits by the Tigers to pull ahead and take the 25-18 win.

Seeing their lead slip away in the third game had the Tigers reeling a bit in the fourth game, with Somerset pouncing on the opportunity to take a quick 5-0 lead. After trailing most of the game, the Tigers made their charge, coming back to tie the game at 17-17 and 20-20. Somerset then got a kill that got them the serve back. Elizabeth Coe then single-handedly put the game away, finishing off the Tigers with four ace serves on the final four points of the night.

Both teams showed qualities they can build from in this match. The Spartans displayed excellent court coverage, getting 46 digs in the match, led by 10 from Coe and nine from Caleigh Hoiland. Serving remains one of the Spartans' best weapons as illustrated by their 16 aces in this match.

For the Tigers, they showed net play possibilities. Kelsie Abramson led the team with nine kills and Krista Mitchell had six kills. Leahy was a player who stepped up in this match, with six solo blocks and an assisted block, plus three kills.

"She did a dynamite game," said Tiger coach Becky Ahlbrecht.

The Tigers' other middle hitter, Katie Parker, led the team with nine digs and she was involved in seven blocks and supplied five kills.

For the Tigers, their play against Somerset was a big advancement from their play in a three-game loss to Menomonie two nights earlier. The Tigers lost 25-14, 25-14, 25-17 in that match, their home opener.

"We didn't get many chances to set up our attack, our serve receive was somewhat weak," Ahlbrecht said.

Parker led the Tigers with five kills and Hannah Bygd had three kills against Menomonie.

New Richmond and Somerset will both play on their home courts in MBC matches this Thursday. New Richmond gets a visit from Durand's team, while Somerset will be visited by Baldwin-Woodville's squad.

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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