Lady Spartan spikers send Logan packing

The Lady Spartan spikers recorded a dozen blocks and 41 kills Tuesday, en route to a 3-1 victory over La Crosse Logan in the opening round of the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 volleyball regional at Sparta’s Alton Ask Gymnasium.
The match - the fourth time the two teams met this season – marked Sparta’s third straight over the Rangers.
Both teams came to play and the opening set of the best-of-five match was a see-saw battle from the get-go.
Logan built a 15-11 lead near the midway point, but Sparta was able to score three straight coming off a timeout to cut the deficit to 15-14.
The Lady Spartans regained the lead at 22-21 late in the set, and followed with a 3-1 run to score the 25-22 win and the 1-0 lead.
Sparta took the momentum of the first set victory into the second set, rolling to a lopsided 25-11 win.
The Lady Spartan spikers opened up an early 11-3 lead and continued to pour it on to move in front of Logan 2-0.
The Rangers rebounded in the third set, coming out strong to open up a 22-13 lead over Sparta.
The Lady Spartans answered with senior Madi Blaha, who served for six straight points after a side out to help Sparta cut the deficit to 22-21.
Logan righted the ship in time, however, outscoring Sparta 3-2 down the stretch to seal the 25-23 win and cut the Spartan lead to 2-1.
Sparta’s third-set comeback effort may have fallen shy, but the Lady Spartans carried over the momentum they gained from the rally to open the fourth set.
A fired-up Sparta squad forged an early 12-6 lead and increased its advantage to 19-12 late in the game.
The Rangers pulled to within four of the lead late, but the Lady Spartan spikers held on to capture the set 25-17 and earn the 3-1 match victory.
Spartan head coach Dave Waraxa said the late rally in the third set was huge for his team.
“We lost out momentum early in the third set, but we got it back,” he offered. “We turned the end of the third set into something positive and we came back into the fourth set with something positive.”
Despite Sparta’s early struggles in the third set, Waraxa was pleased with the overall performance of his team.
“Our second set was some of the best volleyball I’ve seen us play,” he said.
“They were jumping out of their minds and their timing was perfect,” Waraxa continued. “We struggled with our serving early and we didn’t really challenge them as much as we would have liked, but it all kind of came together in the second set.”
Senior Coral Jones led the Lady Spartan spikers on offense with a career-high 14 kills, followed by seniors Sierra Gallup with 10, Madi Blaha with nine and Jackie Page with four.
On the defensive side of the net, Sparta finished with 56 digs, including 17 from Blaha, Jackie Page with a dozen and juniors Katie Warren, Lexi Gilbertson and Whitney Page with 11, six and four, respectively.
Sophomores Becca Jenkins and Brienna Gallup finished with four and three blocks, respectively, for Sparta, while Jackie Page recorded four aces and 28 assists.
The victory moves Sparta into the Division 2 regional quarterfinal this (Thursday) evening at 7 p.m. in West Salem.
The Panthers drew the top seed in the regional despite finishing behind second-seeded Black River Falls in the Coulee Conference race.
The Tigers handed the Panthers a 3-2 loss at West Salem to capture the Coulee title last week.
Sparta has not played West Salem this season, but the Lady Spartans swept Black River Falls 2-0 at the Spartan Invitational in mid-September.
Waraxa said his team needs to play well against West Salem’s middle hitters.
“We have to block and keep them off guard,” he explained.
“They are a very good serving team – they mix it up and keep you guessing,” Waraxa added. “That will be our focus – to make sure we’re ready for everything in our serve receive.”
Waraxa said the Sparta student section gave his team a boost Tuesday, and he’s hoping to see a good number of Spartan fans in the stands tonight as well.
“Our girls play better when we have some excitement,” he concluded. “I’m hoping our student section comes over to West Salem to cheer us on. We need that seventh person.”

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