Spikers outlast Central in MVC marathon

Sparta rallied from a 2-1 deficit Tuesday night, outlasting Central 3-2 in Mississippi Valley Conference volleyball action at Central.
The Lady Spartans struggled after opening with a first–set victory, dropping the second and third games to fall behind 2-1, before they bounced back to win the final two sets and capture the match.
Leading by just a point midway through the match, Sparta scored four straight to open up a 20-15 lead and never looked back en route to a 25-20 win.
Sparta trailed early in the second set, but used a late 7-2 run to tie the score at 24-24, before Central scored the final two points to even the match with a 26-24 win.
Things went downhill from there, as Central opened the third set on an 8-1 run on its way to a lopsided 25-13 victory that gave host Red Raiders a 2-1 advantage in the best-of-five match.
The Lady Spartan spikers regrouped, but still found themselves in another tight battle with their backs to the wall in the fourth set.
Sparta trailed 20-14 late in the set, but rebounded with a 10-4 run to knot the match at 24-24 before pulling away for a 27-25 win to even the match at 2-2.
The fifth and decisive match was tight as well, but Sparta opened up an 8-4 lead and pulled away for a 15-9 win to complete the comeback.
Sparta defeated Central 3-1 in four sets the first time the two teams met at Sparta’s Alton Ask Gymnasium in early September.
While Central has yet to win a MVC match, Lady Spartan head coach Dave Waraxa said the come-from-behind victory was a big one for his team and the volleyball program.
“I think it’s huge because we’re heading into the seeding meeting and we need every win we can get,” he offered.
“More so, coming back to win and getting the girls to believe they can do whatever they set their minds to is a big step forward,” continued Waraxa. “It brings us into the Holmen match with some momentum.”
While Sparta is out of the hunt for a MVC title, the spikers are still looking to get a good seed in the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 regional.
Sparta has just two matches left before the post-season, but both are at home.
The Lady Spartans face league-leading Holmen at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) and host MVC foe La Crosse Logan at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Two more wins could give Sparta one of the top three seeds in the regional.
“Both matches are important because they will have an impact on our seeding,” said Waraxa.
“I think we could be No. 3, or maybe No. 2 because of our head-to-head victory over Black River Falls,” he added. “even if we get the No. 4 seed, we will have a home match.”
In addition to Sparta, teams in the area Division 2 regional include Black River Falls, West Salem, Onalaska, La Crosse Central, La Crosse Logan, Nekoosa and Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau.
Sparta swept Central this season, defeated Black River Falls 2-0 at the Spartan Invitational, split with Onalaska and defeated La Crosse Logan once.
A victory over Division I Holmen would be a feather in Waraxa’s cap, and a season sweep of Logan would likely put Sparta in the top three.
Senior Madi Blaha led the Lady Spartan spikers on offense with 10 kills, while seniors Coral Jones and Jackie Page finished with seven apiece.
Junior Lexi Gilbertson added six kills for Sparta, followed by sophomores Brienna Gallup with five and Becca Jenkins with four.
In addition, Jenkins recorded three blocks to lead Sparta, while Page had 31 assists and three service aces.
On the defensive side of the net, Sparta recorded 98 digs as a team.
Gilbertson led the way with 24 digs, followed by junior Kaitlin Warren with 23, Blaha with 20 and junior Whitney Page with 14.
The Red Raiders were led by Emily Hayden with 22 kills, Grace VonRuden with 23 assists and Megan Kappauf with 26 digs.
Sparta, which won just four matches a season ago, improved its record to 4-6 in MVC action and 12-13 overall, while Central remained winless in league play with an 0-9 record.
The Lady Spartan spikers will look to bring their record back to .500 tonight (Thursday), when they host Holmen in a 7 p.m. MVC match at Alton Ask Gymnasium.
The first time the two teams met this season, the Vikings rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Sparta 3-2 at Holmen.

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