Wins over New Richmond and Ellsworth last week raised the Somerset volleyball team's record to 3-0 in Middle Border Conference matches.
The Spartans got a good test when they faced a hard-hitting Ellsworth team last Tuesday. Somerset captured the first game 25-14, but Ellsworth came right back to take the second game 25-18.
The third game pivoted on serving. The Spartans were scuffling early in the game, trailing 8-5. Laura Wells was inserted to serve and she rang up several straight points that got the Spartans playing sharply again. Ellsworth's hopes of staying with the Spartans were sunk when the Panthers missed several serves late in the game. Somerset pulled away for a 25-15 win. Ellsworth was hurt by its serving all night, missing a total of 15 serves in the four games.
In Game 4 the Spartans finished off the match with a 25-16 win.
Spartan coach Sarah Praschak said serving was one of Somerset's best assets in this victory. Ashley Martell was on target with 20 serves, including two aces. Anna Marson and Alicia Siggens were also key players in the win with their serving.
Sophomore Sarah Northey has been starting to emerge as a powerful hitter in recent matches. Against Ellsworth Northey led the Spartans with 14 kills.
"When Sarah's on, she's almost unstoppable," said Somerset coach Sarah Praschak.
Martell and Ellie Vanasse each finished with seven kills.
On Thursday the Spartans went to New Richmond and took charge early, winning 25-7, 25-16, 25-20. New Richmond was a bit timid early in the match and the Spartans pounced on the opportunity. The second and third games were more competitive, but the Spartans were able to win by making fewer errors.
The Spartans passed well in Thursday's win, keeping New Richmond's best hits in play. Siggens was the leader. She had eight digs and nine good serve returns.
The Spartans' high percentage serving again was a factor in the win. Siggens, Marson and Karli Solum all had big nights from the service line.
On Saturday the Spartans played in a tournament at Eau Claire North. The team's first two efforts of the day ranked among their best of the season, but the team's concentration tailed off in the final two matches of the day.
The Spartans started out facing a tough Bloomer team. Somerset came away with a 27-25, 25-17, 15-13 win. In the second round the Spartans lost a spirited match to Eau Claire Memorial, 26-24, 25-18, 15-13.
"It was just a dogfight. It was sad to see that either team had to lose," Praschak said.
With Homecoming festivities scheduled for that evening, the Spartans' minds may have begun to wander. They weren't nearly as sharp in losses to Hayward and Sparta. They lost to Hayward 25-18, 25-20 and to Sparta 25-12, 25-21.
Praschak said she wants her team to learn from those losses that they can't play safe volleyball all the time.
"We have to take some risks at the net and be a little more aggressive. We need to take it to that next level," she said.
The Spartans will be back in action this Thursday, in a home match against Baldwin-Woodville. The Spartans head south next Tuesday for a match against Durand.