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Somerset volleyball continues to make adjustments

Somerset middle hitter Rachel Plourde drives the ball over the net during the New Richmond Invitational on Saturday.

It’s uncommon to see teams still making changes with two weeks left in their regular season.

But with the youth on the Somerset volleyball team, the situation isn’t the norm. The Spartans play three freshmen and are one of the youngest teams in the area.

Spartan Coach Sarah Praschak decided to switch to a 6-2 formation for Saturday’s New Richmond Invitational, and likely for the rest of the season. The Spartans won once in their four matches in the tournament and were competitive in the others against a strong lineup of opponents.

The win came against Northwestern, by 25-21 and 25-19 scores. The Spartans were able to win one game against perennial powerhouse Grantsburg, losing 25-17, 25-27 and 15-6.  Somerset lost to New Richmond 25-8, 25-21 and to Clayton 25-15, 25-16.

Praschak said there were several reasons to shift to a 6-2 system, with Alyssa Willett joining Baily Paulus as the team’s setters.

“The bonus was another hitter and blocker on our right side,” Praschak said.

Senior Miranda O’Rourke gets more hitting opportunities with the switch, as does Becca Olin, who was brought up from the junior varsity to be the additional outside hitter. Willett will add to the team’s passing skills in addition to being a second setting option.

The changes resulted in improved play by the Spartans on Saturday. Serving remained the team’s most reliable weapon, but the team had much more hitting success on Saturday.

One flaw the team needs to remedy is giving up serve receive errors in bunches. Praschak said she refrained from using timeouts in the tournament, wanting the girls to have the opportunity to work out challenges on their own.

“We wanted them to unite as a team and feel the success from each other,” Praschak said.

The Spartans accomplished a hard-fought home win last Thursday, outlasting Durand in five games 25-9, 22-25, 25-15, 22-25, 15-11.  This was double success for the Spartans, who held their Dig Pink game, raising $253 for breast cancer research.

The evening started well for the Spartans against the more-experienced Panthers. The Spartans’ play hit a lull in the middle games, before finishing the night with a concerted effort in the fifth game.

The Spartans weren’t as successful when they played at Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday. They were outplayed by the Blackhawks 25-8, 25-21, 25-11.

The next action for the Spartans arrives this Saturday when they play in a tournament at Altoona. Altoona has seemingly been in the Spartans’ WIAA regional tournament bracket every year for decades, but Altoona has been shifted to another bracket this season. The Spartans’ WIAA Division 2 regional tournament bracket this year includes six Middle Border Conference teams and St. Croix Central. The WIAA tournament play begins on Tuesday, Oct. 22.

The next conference match on the slate for the Spartans will be played next Tuesday when Somerset hosts Prescott.

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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