Two young teams took the court when Somerset hosted St. Croix Central in the Middle Border Conference opener for both teams.
Somerset put up a good battle, but St. Croix Central’s game is more advanced at this point. Central earned a 25-16, 25-23 and 25-15 win.
Central has a tall, athletic team. But the Panthers graduated an immensely talented senior class led by Abby Widiker, who is a starter in her first college season at Missouri S&T. There were times Thursday that the Panthers were outstanding at the net. The final point in the opening set came when the Panthers put up their third successful block of the point, this time putting the ball to the floor. The Panthers also used a block to get the final point in the second set.
Central coach Mindy Widiker said the Panthers show all the earmarks of a young team.
“We’re inconsistent. We have streaks where we’re really good. They’re finding their identity, figuring it out as its going,” Widiker said.
The Panthers put up a diverse hitting attack. It was led by junior Olivia Cleary and sophomores Katie Gostovich and Kathryn Larson. There are a half dozen other girls on the roster who are also capable hitters. Most of those girls also play in the back row, working around libero Isabella Johnston. The Panthers are carrying three setters on the varsity: Kaitlyn Holmgren, Morgan Siler and Meadow Berg.
Coach Widiker said the Panthers are still growing into their roles. She said the team had an extremely challenging pre-season schedule.
“We went through lots of different rotations, seeing what worked,” Widiker said.
Somerset is in a similar position, with Coach Amber Vrieze saying her staff is still trying to find a rotation that works moving forward.
Vrieze said this match followed the pattern of the team’s earlier matches. She said the Spartans don’t start well, then they have to make big comebacks. The best comeback came in the second set. Somerset trailed 23-17, then charged back to tie the score at 23-23. The next point was one of the best of the night, with both teams sending the ball over the net numerous times.
That comeback was one of the highlights for the Spartans. Vrieze said the combination of setter Stevie Haigh and middle hitter Hope Baillargeon clicked, particularly in the first two sets. Vrieze said consistency and getting better starts are two areas of focus, as is the team’s dedication to improving its defense.
Both teams are off until their MBC matches next Thursday. Somerset will play at Osceola that night and Central will travel to Ellsworth.