Spikers roll over Rangers

The element of surprise usually comes in handy, especially when you’re talking about sports.
That was the case at La Crosse Logan Tuesday, when the Sparta volleyball team surprised the Rangers with a 3-1 Mississippi Valley Conference road victory.
Logan likely came into the match confident after defeating Sparta 2-0 at the Richland Center Invitational Sept. 5.
But the Lady Spartan spikers had other ideas – and they paid dividends.
Sparta opened strong, forging an early 4-1 lead.
That’s when junior Lexi Gilbertson took charge serving for six straight points to give Sparta a commanding 10-1 lead, as the Lady Spartans cruised to a 25-12 win in the first set.
Logan responded in the second set, pushing the Lady Spartan spikers to the limit.
The Rangers took a 25-24 lead late in the game, but a Madi Blaha kill gave Sparta a 26-25 advantage.
Sparta scored the next point as well, winning the set 27-25 to take a 2-0 lead.
The Lady Spartans struggled a bit in the third set of the best-of-five match, falling 25-13 to the Rangers.
Sparta returned the favor in fourth set, however, never trailing en route to a 25-20 victory.
With Sparta on top 15-9 midway through the fourth set, senior setter Jackie Page served for four straight points to give Sparta a 19-9 cushion.
The Spartan lead held down the stretch to give Sparta the win and the match.
Second-year coach Dave Waraxa said the win was a big one for the team and the program.
“This is huge, because it keeps us in the hunt,” he offered.
 “The three teams in the lead  (Aquinas, Holmen and Tomah are all 4-1 in MVC action) we had to play on the road in the first half, so now we get them at home,” Waraxa continued. “If we can fill the gym we’ve got a good shot at knocking them off.”
Waraxa said the Lady Spartans are showing steady improvement – both physically and mentally.
“I think we’re finally getting to the point that we don’t feel like anyone owns us,” said Waraxa.
“I kept a short leash on them early in the season, but now we’re passing better, so we can open up more things,” he added.
“The better we pass the more things we can do,” Waraxa continued. “I’m really excited for the second half of the season.”
Coral Jones led Sparta on the offensive side of the net, recording a dozen kills.
Page set the table for the Lady Spartans with 29 assists, while Madi Blaha and Kaitlin Warren finished with 18 digs apiece.
Sparta evened its MVC record at 3-3 with the win and improved its overall record to 9-7.
The Lady Spartan spikers are back in action Tuesday, when they host La Crosse Aquinas at 7 p.m. to kick off the second half of the 2015 MVC season.

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