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Somerset volleyball shows its smarts in win over Ellsworth

Somerset’s Avery Gunther (14) tips the volleyball around the block attempt by Ellsworth’s Mackenzie Kummer during last Thursday’s match.

Admission to Somerset volleyball matches should come with a package of antacids.

That’s how tense both of the Spartans’ Middle Border Conference matches were last week. The Spartans lost in five sets at Prescott last Tuesday. The Spartans lost two of the first three sets in their home match against Ellsworth on Thursday, but showed considerable mental toughness in charging back to win the final two sets to get the team victory.

The volleyball teams in the MBC this season are all so tightly balanced skill-wise, that some time it is other factors that result in victory. In the win over Ellsworth, the large collective sports knowledge owned by the Spartan girls in their multiple-sports careers may have been the difference.

“We’ve been working on our smarts, ball location on the net, that you’ve got to tip, hit and roll,” said Somerset coach Sarah Praschak.

This became a noticeable factor during the fourth set when the Spartans were trying to slow down Ellsworth’s momentum. Led by Tori Martell and Abbie Rivard, the Spartans changed up the pace of the action. From there on, the game was played at the pace Somerset wanted it played.

The changed pace was partially necessary because the Spartans’ leading hitter, Haley Bassett, was playing with an injured hand. The Spartans had a number of remarkable saves during the night. On one of them, Bassett smashed her hand into the wall, leaving a large bruise on her palm. Praschak said if the Spartans would have a tournament on Saturday, she would have held Bassett out of the lineup because of the bruise.

Somerset won the opening set 25-18, before Ellsworth took the second set 25-19. The third set was pulse pounding, with intense action and a number of lead changes, with Ellsworth finally winning 28-26.

Ellsworth took a 14-9 lead in the fourth set before Somerset started changing the game. The Spartans were able to come back for a 25-23 win, with a Bassett kill shot earning the final point.

The Spartans appeared in trouble in the fifth set too, falling behind 9-6. A kill off a roll shot by Martell got the Spartans the serve and the Spartans were able to gain an upper hand, winning 15-12.

Serving has been a staple of the Somerset attack. In Thursday’s win, Bassett, Rivard, Martell, Kat Praschak and Dani Flandrick all were productive servers. Bassett and Martell led the hitting success with seven kills each. Kaitlyn Struemke and Avery Gunther combined for 13 blocks.

Rivard also made a defensive difference in the win. Ellsworth was scoring readily with hits down the line, so she took the responsibility of taking away that part of the court.

“Abbie did an awesome job defensively, taking away the ball to the right corner,” Praschak said.

The loss at Prescott was equally nerve-wracking. Somerset won the opening set 25-14, then lost the next two on 25-20 scores. The fight in the Spartans showed in the fourth set when they won 25-19 to send the match to a fifth set.

The Spartans didn’t have another comeback in them, losing 15-10.

Serving was a key component again for Somerset, led by Allie Trautmiller, Rivard and and Bassett. The hitting was balanced, with Bassett and Struemke each getting six kills while Rivard and Martell scored five kills.

This is another busy stretch for the Spartans. They will play at home Thursday against Amery in Somerset’s Senior and Parent Night. On Saturday, the Spartans will play at the New Richmond Invitational. That’s followed by a home match next Tuesday against 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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