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Spartans become marathoners

Somerset senior Brooke Beuthling nearly bends over backward to deliver this serve in last week's win over New Richmond. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The Somerset girls had to be exhausted by the end of action in the New Richmond Volleyball Invitational.

In five days, Somerset had played 19 sets of volleyball. They played nine on Saturday, which followed five-set matches in their Middle Border Conference battles with New Richmond and Amery. The Spartans will gladly take five-set matches if they continue to get those results: with wins over the Tigers and Warriors.

The week started with last Tuesday's home match against New Richmond. The night didn't look rosy when the Tigers won the opening set 25-20 and the Spartans let a lead slip away in the second set, losing 25-22.

But New Richmond made some serving errors in the third set, opening the door for the Spartans to take a 25-15 win. The fourth set was the closest of the night, but the Spartans pulled out a 25-23. The momentum of that win helped the Spartans grab a 9-2 lead in the fifth set, which they finished with a 15-8 win.

Somerset coach Sarah Praschak said five-set matches show something about a team.

"It all boils down to who has more determination and momentum," she said.

Praschak said one of the key factors in this win was the team's improved blocking. Anna Rybacki led the team with 14 blocks, Brit Buchanan contributed 10 and Brooke Beuthling nine. Rybacki also led the team with 14 kills and Hannah Waskosky scored with 10.

The coaches have changed things up for the Spartans this season by using two different defenses, based on the opponent's strengths.

"It's something new for the team to adjust to. I'm pleased with their learning curve," she said.

Tuesday's match was also the annual "Dig Pink" night for cancer research. The Spartans raised $710 with their efforts that evening.

The Spartans and their fans might have felt they were on the opposite end of the roller coaster when they played at Amery on Thursday. Somerset won the opening two sets 25-23, 25-20. Amery then came back to get the next two, 26-24 and 25-18. The Spartans found a way to recover and they did it quickly, winning the fifth game 15-6.

Coach Praschak said defensive play was a key to Thursday's win. Kat Praschak led the team with 13 digs and Coach Praschak said Georgia Hammer provided some key digs.

"She's got great instincts," Coach Praschak said.

The wear of the week showed on the Spartans Saturday. They lost their opening matches against Eau Claire North, Cadott and Barron before defeating Baldwin-Woodville in the final round. There were highlights to the day. The Spartans fell behind in their opening set of the day against Eau Claire North 8-0, but fought back to make the final score 26-24. They also took a talented Barron team to three sets.

"Nineteen sets, that's crazy. That's a lot of volleyball," Praschak said of the week.

The Spartans resume their schedule on Thursday with a match at Osceola. The Spartans complete their regular season next Tuesday with a home match against St. Croix Central. This will be Senior Night for the Spartans.

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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