SPARTA - As an underdog in Friday's WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal volleyball match, Ellsworth High School's spiker squad played with nothing to lose against the higher seed Sparta on the Spartans' home floor.
That allowed the Panthers to play the Spartans even in Game 1 and take a five-point lead in Game 2.
But it didn't allow for victory as the Spartans won in three games and advanced to Saturday's regional final in Durand.
Ellsworth head coach Margie Biel thought her team played some of its best volleyball of the season in the first two games. The Panthers had the first game tied at 23-23 after a Kayla Christopherson ace, only to watch the Spartans scored the final two points on Ellsworth mistakes.
In Game 2, the Panthers had leads of 9-5, 12-9 and 14-9. They covered well at the net and they got kills from a variety of different players. Christopherson, Rachel Anderson and Allison Freier all had four kills with Carlie Melstrom making nine assists.
"We have nothing to hang heads about when it came to our effort tonight," Biel said.
But in both Games 1 and 2 the Panthers were unable to sustain their momentum to the end and allowed the Spartans to storm back. In Game 2, Sparta received six straight service points from Haylee Kirking that put the home team in front again 15-14. Kelsey Berz scored five points from the line to give Sparta a 20-15 lead . Ellsworth would get no closer than 23-19 on a kill by Christopherson and lost 25-19.
In Game 3, Sparta's Aletra Nading came off the bench to serve up 11 points in a row for a 16-3 Spartan lead. Jamie Kenyon had another six serving points to send the Spartans on their way to a 25-6 win.
"Volleyball is all about momentum and once they got they never let it go. They're a very good team." Biel said.
Ellsworth closes its season with a 16-10 overall record.