Spikers fall to Panthers in regional

There were plenty of ups and downs and peaks and valleys Thursday night, but when the dust settled in West Salem Thursday night, the Lady Spartans spikers came up just short in their upset bid against the top-seeded Panthers in Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 volleyball action.
After falling behind 2-1, Sparta forced a fourth and decisive set, but the eventual regional champion Panthers managed to rally down the stretch to capture a 3-2 victory.
The Lady Spartans came out hot in the opening set, forging an early 7-3 advantage.
West Salem rallied to score six unanswered points, however, opening up a 9-7 advantage.
A kill by Sierra Gallup gave midway through the set allowed Sparta to regain the lead at 11-10, and the Lady Spartans pulled away down the stretch to secure a 25-21 win and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five match.
The Panthers bounced back in the second set, opening up an early 13-4 lead en route to a 25-14 defeat of Sparta to even the score at 1-1.
The third set mirrored the second, as West Salem used several big serving runs to roll to a 25-11 victory and a 2-1 advantage.
With its back to the wall, Sparta rallied in the fourth set to force a fifth and decisive game.
The fourth set was close throughout, but the Lady Spartans managed to turn an early lead into a 15-9 advantage just past the midway point.
The Panthers managed to pull within two points of Sparta late, but the Lady Spartans were able to hold on for the 25-21 victory to even the match at 2-2 and force a fifth set.
The Panthers came out hot in the race to 15, opening up a 12-4 lead over Sparta, before coasting to a 15-5 win to capture the match victory.
While he was disappointed with the loss, Sparta head coach Dave Waraxa said his team has improved by leaps and bounds over last season.
“Twelve to 24 hours after the match, I was terribly disappointed,” he offered.
“Seventy-two hours after it, I can see the progress,” he continued. “We improved by 10 wins this season – that’s a huge difference.”
The Lady Spartan spikers finished their 2014 campaign with a 4-24 overall record and a 0-12 record in Mississippi Valley Conference play.
This season, Sparta posted a 14-15 overall record and a 5-7 mark in MVC action.
“We hardly took anybody to four games last season,” sad Waraxa.
“This year, we were winning, we were passing the ball well and we were communicating well,” he continued. “I think we did pretty well. I think the girls should be proud of how they played.”
Gallup and Coral Jones led the Lady Spartan spikers on offense with nine kills apiece, while Brienna Gallup finished with seven kills and Becca Jenkins recorded four blocks for Sparta.
On the defensive side of the net, Sparta finished with 107 digs, including 30 from Kaitlin Warren and 21 from Madi Blaha.
Lexi Gilbertson added 18 kills for the Lady Spartans, while Whitney and Jackie Page finished with 12 and 10, respectively.
Jackie Page added four aces and 22 assists, while Marissa Erickson finished with seven assists.
West Salem advanced to Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 regional final at Black River Falls, where they scored a 3-0 sweep over the Tigers to advance to Thursday’s sectional at Stevens Point.

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