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St. Croix Central volleyball team looking for find success from first half of season

St. Croix Central’s Claire Frankiewicz drives a hit over the net during a recent Panther match.

There’s not time to lose if the St. Croix Central volleyball team wants to keep playing.

After starting the Middle Border Conference season with a 4-0 record, the Panthers dropped their third straight MBC match last Tuesday. It came in a four-set decision against Somerset.

The loss dropped the Panthers to 4-3, leaving them among a cluster of teams tied for second place in the Middle Border Conference final standings, among them Somerset. Osceola won the conference with a 7-0 record.

The Panthers needed a quick turnaround to their recent tailspin. They were scheduled to host Ellsworth in the opening round of WIAA Division 2 regional tournament action on Tuesday. The winner of Tuesday’s match will play again this Thursday, playing at 7 p.m. at top-seeded Altoona.

St. Croix Central coach Mindy Widiker said the Panthers were a relaxed team through most of the season, but she’s seen a change as these losses have mounted.

“After those couple losses, it’s a little bit of a mental game,” she said “A couple are starting to freeze up a little. They’re not playing to put the ball away.”

That showed in the opening set against Somerset. The Panthers couldn’t put Somerset away, losing 25-22. Central took advantage of Somerset getting complacent in the second set, roaring to a 25-12 victory.

The final two sets were hard fought, but small mistakes by the Panthers left the opening for Somerset to take both, 25-22 and 27-25.

The numbers show the Panthers aren’t playing badly. Katie Koerper and Abbie Widiker both finished with 18 kills, with middle hitters Mia Krogseng and Claire Frankiewicz combining for 13 more. Krogseng led the team with five blocks and Ciera Kraus was good for four.

Widiker and Taylor Heinrich led the team with 17 digs each, with Koerper contributing 15. Mari Buckel led the team with three service aces.

Coach Widiker said possible lineup changes could affect the team this week. She said setter Rachel Larson has a back injury and Karlee Martinez is battling bronchitis. If they can’t play, the Panthers might be forced to play a 5-1 system with Kalli Cress as the team’s only healthy setter.

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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