Lady Spartan spikers earn all-MVC honors

Five members of the Sparta High School volleyball team earned all-Mississippi Valley Conference honors for their performance on the court this season.
Senior Jackie Page led the way for the Lady Spartan spikers when she earned a spot on the all-MVC first team.
Page led the Lady Spartan spikers with 46 serving aces and 417 assists as a setter this season.
She also recorded 236 digs for Sparta on defense.
The last time Sparta landed a player on the first team was the 2011 season, when Megan Herrman and Chelsey Arendt earned the honor after leading Sparta to a co-MVC title with La Crosse Central.
Senior Coral Jones was named to the all-conference second team, while senior Madi Blaha and sophomore Becca Jenkins each earned a spot on the honorable mention team.
Junior Lexi Gilbertson was named to the MVC’s sportsmanship squad.
Jones led the team in kills with 191, followed by Blaha with 137, Jenkins with 94 and Gilbertson with 93.
On defense, Jenkins recorded a stellar 73 blocks, while Jones added 29.
Blaha led the team in digs with 371, followed by Kaitlin Warren with 327, Gilbertson with 290, Jackie Page with 236 and Whitney Page with 135.
The Lady Spartans learned of their all-MVC honors at Monday’s volleyball banquet, held in the Sparta High School cafeteria.
At the banquet, Sparta head coach Dave Waraxa spoke of the improvement his team showed throughout the season.
“This team got better every time we stepped on the court,” he offered.
Sparta won just four matches and finished 0-12 in MVC action in Waraxa’s first season as head coach last year.
This year, Sparta showed marked improvement, finishing tied for fourth in the conference standings with a 5-7 league mark and ending its 2015 campaign at 14-15 overall.
“At the beginning of the season, I felt we would be around .500 in the middle of the pack,” said Waraxa.
“Tied for fourth is about as middle of the road as you can be,” he continued. “We met our expectations – that’s where I thought we would be.”
Waraxa said the biggest improvement came in his team’s passing game.
“We improved so much in passing and our ability to read,” he said.
It’s maturity. We were playing with three sophomores last year and their skill level improved a great deal this year,” Waraxa added. “We still have a few things to work out, but we were still playing with two sophomores again this year.”
Sparta will lose four strong seniors next year with the graduation of Page, Jones, Blaha and Sierra Gallup, so Waraxa is expecting his underclassmen to step up in 2016.
“The juniors are going to have to step up and show some leadership next season,” he said.
“There’s a lot of talent down in the lower levels that’s starting to show itself, so I’m excited for that,” continued Waraxa. “We’re going to put in a lot of work and spend a lot of time in the gym. The kids want to get better – they want to improve.”
He said the Lady Spartans also improved on the mental aspect of the game this season.
“They’re learning not to quit. They’re learning to believe in themselves,” Waraxa offered.
“They look at the scoreboard a lot less,” he said, adding the scoreboard was a big component in how well Sparta played last season and early this season. “Last year, if we got behind by six points we’d give up. This year, we made up a couple of 10-point deficits – we didn’t quit.”
That mental toughness led to a pair of signature wins against La Crosse Logan, including a 3-1 victory over the Rangers in the regional opener – Sparta’s first post-season win in three seasons.
The Lady Spartan spikers played well in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 regional semifinal match as well, before falling to eventual regional champion West Salem in five sets.

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