HAMMOND, Wis. -- Every loss is disappointing. But when it’s a five-set, season-ending regional final loss it’s even tougher to take.

That’s how the St. Croix Central’s volleyball season ended Saturday night, Oct. 24, in a Division 2 regional final on its home court. After sweeping Altoona in three sets two nights earlier, the Panthers came from behind to go up 2-1 against Bloomer, only to drop the final two sets and the match.

“It’s always hard when it’s the final match, especially for the seniors,” St. Croix Central coach Mindy Widiker said. “We had high expectations going into the match and felt prepared. But we have a tough region and no match is ever easy or a given. Bloomer is a super solid team and they played a little better than we did.”

After losing the first set, 23-25, the Panthers regrouped and took the next two sets by scores of 25-14, 25-18. Bloomer tied things up with a come-from-behind 25-21 win in set four before taking the final set and the match, 15-11.

“We started out strong in the beginning of the fourth set and then you could feel the momentum change a bit,” Widiker noted. “Bloomer did a nice job putting up a solid block during the match and had some great defensive, scrappy plays to keep the ball alive. In the last set we just couldn't make the timely plays we needed to get the win.”

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St. Croix Central’s Olivia Cleary (5) blocks a shot by Altoona’s Brittany Klatt in the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over the Railroaders in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal match Thursday, Oct. 22, in Hammond. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia
St. Croix Central’s Olivia Cleary (5) blocks a shot by Altoona’s Brittany Klatt in the Panthers’ 3-0 victory over the Railroaders in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal match Thursday, Oct. 22, in Hammond. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

Katie Gostovich and Katie Larson finished with 13 kills each in the loss while Olivia Cleary scored eight and Meadow Berg had seven. Berg also dished out a team-high 26 set assists while Kaitlyn Holmgren had 20.

Defensively, Cleary registered four blocks and Gostovich had three while Gostovich led the team with 16 digs and Grace Benson had 14.

Thursday in the regional semifinal against Altoona, Gostovich had 12 kills and Cleary and Larson had seven each as the Panthers swept the Railroaders, 25-13, 25-10, 25-19.

“We played effectively on offense and defense both,” Widiker said. “As a team we had very few errors in all statistical categories. We had a great match at the net attacking, served efficiently and strong, our serve receive was steady and on point. It was fun to watch the team gel in all areas.”

Holmgren dished out 20 assists in the win and Berg had 17 while Benson came up with 11 digs and Gostovich had 10.

While Widiker said the Panthers were disappointed with Saturday’s season-ending loss to Bloomer, they were trying to look on the bright side.

“It was a competitive match throughout, and they are a good team,” the coach said. “In the end we are happy, grateful, and thankful to have a season at all this year.”