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Somerset volleyball wins battle of close games with Ellsworth

Somerset's Natalie Broome (right) alertly tipped this ball over the net for a pivotal point in the second game of the Spartans' win over Ellsworth last Thursday.

If you like drama-packed volleyball matches, the clash between Somerset and Ellsworth at the SHS gym was perfect for you.

All four games were close and came down to dramatic finishes. Somerset was able to pull out three of the four wins to start 1-0 in the 2012 Middle Border Conference standings.

The crowd got an early indication of the dramatic nature of the match in the first game. Ellsworth held a small lead for much of the game, but Somerset began making its charge when the scores hit 20. Somerset fans yelled "game point" time after time. It wasn't until the fourth game point that the Spartans could fight off the doggedly determined Panthers, 29-27.

Somerset rode the momentum of the opening win to an early lead in Game 2, but Ellsworth fought back again. Again, the Spartans were able to pull out the win, this time by a 25-22 score.

The Spartans weren't so fortunate in Game 3. This time Ellsworth was able to hold on to a lead, scoring a 25-23 win.

Both teams knew the importance of the fourth game and they played with an intense urgency. Ellsworth needed the win to force a fifth game and the Spartans wanted to settle the matter without having to deal with the shortened fifth game.

Somerset took an early lead in Game 4, but Ellsworth chipped away. Again the game came down to the final possible points, with the "game point" chants of the Somerset fans answered as Somerset won 25-23.

"It was a matter of who could survive, physically and mentally," Somerset coach Sarah Praschak.

The Spartans are definitely still a work in progress, especially in their back row play. With many of the Spartans playing extensively in the back row on a full-time basis for the first time at the varsity level, there is still unsteadiness in their play. The Spartans had 14 serve receive errors in the loss. Couple that with 11 missed serves, and it's understandable why the coaches think the team can make quick improvements.

There were a number of bright spots in the Spartans' play too. The front row play has progressed nicely. Sarah Northey and Sarah Krig pounded down 21 kills and were getting good arm swings on their hits all night. Markell Penman and Natalie Broome are excellent complements to the power hitting of Northey and Krig. Penman hits with great accuracy and Broome scored several critical points with tip kills.

"Everyone has gotten really good at understanding their roles," Praschak said. "They're capitalizing on what they're good at."

While the Spartans had some issues serving, they also had some notable successes. Krig and Megan Starry both are excelling with their serves. They shared the team lead with 13 good serves. Penman added 11 serves and setter Sami Martell was on target with 10 serves.

And even though serve receive was sometimes a problem, it was never an issue for Northey or Penman. Northey only had one error in 22 serve returns and Penman was able to put all 10 of her serve receive attempts in play.

The Spartans continue their Middle Border Conference schedule this Thursday with a home match against Amery. The Spartans will also be home next Tuesday, facing Baldwin-Woodville.

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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