Rockets last lost in Cloverbelt East in September 2011
By Paul Lecker
SPENCER — The streak is over.
The Spencer volleyball team’s run of five-straight undefeated Cloverbelt Conference East Division seasons is done as the Rockets lost to Marshfield Columbus Catholic 3-1 on Tuesday night at Spencer High School.
Columbus Catholic, which took Spencer to five games in last year’s match before faltering, is now 3-0 in the Cloverbelt East. The Rockets drop to 2-1.
Spencer last lost a Cloverbelt East match on Sept. 6, 2011, at Owen-Withee. The Rockets would then win eight-straight conference matches that season and go all the way to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament championship match, which they lost to Oostburg. The Rockets’ conference winning streak reached 45 before Tuesday’s loss.
The Rockets played Columbus tough in the first game and won the second set but could not keep up in the final two games.
Columbus won 25-23, 22-25, 25-10, 25-19 behind strong defensive play. Spencer had numerous chances to earn points but was denied time and again by the Dons’ back row. Libero Annie Baierl had 25 digs, and Maren Seefluth and Katie Hall each had 20 digs to lead the way for Columbus.
Brooke Neider had 40 assists, Kenzie Hansen had 16 kills, and Jessica Jakopin had 10 kills and six blocks for the Dons.
Lexi Baehr topped Spencer with 12 kills and 26 digs, and Sadie Mercier had 24 digs and 23 assists in the loss.
“As soon as we got over the nervousness, they played great,” Columbus Catholic coach Kat Egle said. “It’s Spencer. We never beat them, so this was pretty big for them.”
Spencer led the first set 23-21 after a kill by Shelbi Hoefs only to see the Dons take the game with four-straight points. A long volley on the final point ended with a Spencer error as Columbus won 25-23.
The Rockets regrouped and led for most of Game 2, pulling out to a 23-13 lead after a kill from Baehr.
Columbus mounted a comeback, and a tip-kill from Neider cut the Rockets’ lead to 23-21, but Spencer was able to finish off a 25-22 win on a kill from Shaelee Neitzel.
From that point, it was all Dons.
Columbus ripped off five-straight points to take an 18-7 lead and won 25-10 as Kate Turchi served the final four points of Game 3.
Game 4 was tighter with the Rockets tying the score five different times, but the Dons were always able to rebound.
An ace from Hansen and a kill by Jakopin gave the Dons some breathing room at 22-16, and they finished off a 25-19 win on the serve of Hall.
“Our back row, our defense, is our go-to this year,” Egle said. “It’s a little different than last year with the big offensive team we had. We’re a little smaller this year, but we’re making it work. The girls are adjusting with our defense. We have a smaller block than we have in the past. They’re moving their feet. They’re digging well.”
For Spencer, it is time to regroup. A largely inexperienced squad has been up and down over the first four weeks of the season, but with another month left before the WIAA playoffs, there is plenty of time for the Rockets to continue to improve.
“We had too many unforced errors,” Spencer coach Buff Heller said. “They’re a good team. You just can’t give them that many free points.
“We started and were kind of a mess the first week and a half. They keep getting better and better and learning. We’re not a young team, but we’re an inexperienced team. Our goal now is to take second in the conference because I think that (Columbus) is probably the best team.”
Both teams return to Cloverbelt East action on Thursday. Spencer is at Greenwood, and Columbus Catholic will play at Colby. Both matches start at 7:15 p.m.
(Hub City Times Sports Reporter Paul Lecker is also the publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com.)