Boys spikers win Big 8 — again

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Mathew Caamal and Middleton's boys volleyball team locked up their ninth Big Eight Conference title in 10 years last week./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

There are still bigger fish to fry.

Sectional championships to be won. State tournament victories to achieve.

But with Middleton’s boys volleyball team, it always starts with Big Eight Conference titles. And the Cardinals continued their remarkable run of dominance in the league last week.

Middleton rolled past Madison East, 25-11, 25-11, 25-17, last Thursday. And the win allowed the Cardinals to clinch their ninth Big Eight title in 10 years.

Middleton also notched its 40th straight conference win, a streak that dates back to the end of the 2011 season. 

“We are proud that we are able to be so consistent through all these years and that’s really a tribute to the players and the alumni who take such pride in the program,” Middleton coach Ben White said. “Expectations are passed down from class to class and that sets the tone.”

Kevin McMahon led Middleton with seven kills and three blocks against the Purgolders, while Andrew Lepage had 28 assists and three aces.

Pace Balster and Chandler Squires both had five kills, while Thomas Robson and Ben Miller each had five digs.

“We were able to get a lot of players in and they did a great job,” White said. 

The Cardinals’ win over East was the highlight of a busy week that also saw Middleton defeat Hartland Arrowhead in a non-conference match, then go 2-2 in their own round robin tournament.

Middleton notched a hard fought, 16-25, 24-26, 25-14, 25-18, 16-14 over Arrowhead last Tuesday.

McMahon had 13 kills, 12 digs and three blocks, while Blake Sprecher had 10 kills. Robson had 16 digs, Lepage had 32 assists and Balster added three blocks.

“Arrowhead plays like the old TV show from the late 50’s — ‘Home Run Derby.’ Basically their motto is ‘It’s a home run or nothing here in home run derby,’ ” White said. “Arrowhead rips more jump serves than anyone else in the state. 

“When they are on, they are definitely on. And when they are off, well you are going to get a lot of free points.”

In set one, Arrowhead’s terrific serving led to an easy win.

Middleton jumped to a big lead in the second set, but the Warhawks battled back and took a 2-0 lead.

Middleton rallied back, though, with big wins in the third and fourth sets to force a decisive fifth set.

Amazingly, Middleton’s last win in a five-set match came on Sept. 20, 2007. Granted, the Cardinals don’t play a lot of five-set matches, but they were 0-5 in that time.

“Now some of these guys were in first grade when we last won a five-set match, so it really didn’t mean anything to them in that regard,” White said. “What was important to them was finishing a match.”

And Middleton did just that. The Cardinals weren’t at their best, but did enough to steal the fifth set and the match.

“We needed this win,” White said. “Now, I’m not going to say that we played great in that fifth set, but we took advantage of opportunities and converted. 

“We also won three points that could have gone either way and that was truthfully the difference. Whatever the case may be, we found a way to win and that was great to finally come out on top in a five-set match.”

Middleton then split four matches at its round robin tournament last Saturday.

The Cardinals opened with a 25-14, 25-21 loss to No. 4 New Berlin.

“New Berlin is playing very well right now, but I feel we match up with them better than most teams in the top-10,” White said. “We had a great practice on Friday and I was expecting big things. Except we once again came out flat and we looked like the team that was on the bus for 90 minutes.”

The Cardinals rebounded with an easy 25-5, 25-13 win over Fort Atkinson. Balster and McMahon were big at the net, while Sprecher dominated the front row.

“I wanted the starting lineup to rebound from the disappointing performance against New Berlin,” White said. “And they rebounded.”

The win was also the 300th of White’s sensational career at Middleton.

“Very grateful to have had the opportunity to coach this long and have had a lot of success during that time,” White said. “It is a great accomplishment and an honor and very proud of the boys for stepping up.”

Middleton then pushed No. 2 Appleton North to three sets before falling, 25-15, 20-25, 15-13.

“We played very well in set two, again with Thomas (Robson) owning the back row and our defensive specialists — Jacob Ross, Ben Miller and Kyle Bradley-Bartleson — all stepping up,” White said. “And North didn’t have an answer for Blake. Even though we lost in three (sets) to the No. 2 team in state, we knew we were taking a step forward.”

Middleton took another step in its final match of the day, downing No. 9 Glendale Nicolet, 27-25, 25-17.

“Our match versus Nicolet is what I have been waiting for all season,” White said.

• On deck: Middleton will host the Big Eight Conference tournament Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. The Cardinals then end the regular season at Brookfield East next Tuesday at 7 p.m.

“Excited to see what kind of momentum we can take into (the Big Eight) tournament and into Brookfield East,” White said.

 

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