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Panthers lead All-MBC volleyball selections

Representing Somerset on the 2017 All-Middle Border Conference volleyball team are (l-r) seniors Brooke Beuthling, Kat Praschak and Anna Rybacki. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The St. Croix Central volleyball team was one of the best in western Wisconsin this fall and that success was reflected in the All-Middle Border Conference voting.

The Panthers had five girls named to the All-MBC first team. Somerset and New Richmond finished in the middle of the MBC pack this season. Somerset had three girls named to the All-MBC team and New Richmond had two girls selected.

St. Croix Central

Senior Katie Koerper and junior Abbie Widiker were Central players who were named to the All-MBC first team. Both of Central's setters, senior Kalli Cress and junior Karlee Martinez, were selected for the second team. Junior Mary Buckel, the team's libero, was an honorable mention choice.

Koerper and Widiker were best known as one of the area's best hitting tandems. But that's just part of their value to the team. They played all-around the court and were just as effective in the back row as the front row.

"We depended on Katie for her explosive attacking abilities, defensive abilities, and powerful serving," said Central coach Mindy Widiker. "As with so many others, Katie has spent countless hours to make herself and the team better."

If Koerper was Central's thunder, Widiker was the lightning, as both girls registered more than 300 kills during the Panthers' 29-1 season.

Of her daughter, Coach Widiker said, "She did a great job of seeing the opposing team's court and mixing up her shots for attack kills. Her defensive skill sets also played an important role throughout the season. Abby contributed to our team with great ball control over the season."

Cress and Martinez combined for more than 800 assists. Cress returned to the setting role, giving the team a composed setter who knew where to distribute the ball.

"Kalli led by example with her great work ethic, showed commitment, used her leadership skills, and had the drive to keep improving herself and her teammates every day in practice," Coach Widiker said.

Martinez answered one of the team's main needs when she showed she could be a quality setter in the team's 6-2 attack.

"Karlee embraces the determination it takes for athletes to become successful. No matter how difficult the task may be...Karlee is up for the challenge and won't let anything stop her from succeeding," said Coach Widiker.

As a second-year starting libero, Buckel was already proven as a defensive specialist, and she upped her game this year.

"As libero we depended on Mary for her passing, digging, and serve receive abilities. Mary sacrificed her body many times during the season to make amazing plays...which kept the ball alive for our team," said Coach Widiker.

Somerset

Three Somerset seniors received All-MBC laurels. Brooke Beuthling and Anna Rybacki were named to the all-conference second team and Kat Praschak was an honorable mention selection.

Beuthling is left-handed, making her a perfect fit as a rightside hitter. In addition to her prowess as a hitter, she played an excellent all-around game.

"Brooke is one of the most heartfelt, dedicated players, who loves volleyball and is passionate about it," said Somerset coach Sarah Praschak.

Rybacki gave the Spartans something they needed badly, a threat in the middle of the court who used her excellent leaping ability to become a force as a hitter and blocker.

"Anna will be really hard to replace in the middle. Her blocking was just outstanding, her hitting and leaping ability," Coach Praschak said.

Kat Praschak was the Spartans' libero. Her play progressed markedly during the season and by the end of the season, she was playing as well as any libero in the MBC.

"Kat came a long way. Her passing helped keep our offense going," said Coach Praschak, her mom.

New Richmond

Junior Lauren Smith received second team All-MBC for the Tigers this season, with senior Sami Paulson selected as an honorable mention player.

Smith became the Tigers' main hitting threat at the center of the net. She led the team in kills and was voted as the team's Best Offensive Player.

"She's by far the hardest hitter on the team," said Tiger coach Al Getschel.

Paulson made a strong impression in her first season on the varsity. She provided the team with leadership and smart all-around play. She was one of the team's most effective servers. She also was an active blocker and a productive right-side hitter.

The Tigers presented two other season-ending awards. Amelia Feuerer was voted as the team's Best Defensive Player. Setter Mykenzie Patten was named the Tigers' Most Valuable Player.

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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