Boys spikers headed back to state

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton's boys volleyball team is headed to state for the third straight year and the eighth time since 2002./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Ben White isn’t always conventional.

Middleton’s boys volleyball coach has no problem trying new things — no matter what point of the season his team is at.

But even for White, last Thursday was unique.

With Middleton just minutes away from its WIAA sectional final against Waukesha South, White told his team he was making some changes to account for Blackshirts dynamic outside hitter Tristan Steckl. The move worked like a charm and the Cardinals rolled to a 25-16, 25-18, 25-12 win over South in a match held at Madison Memorial High School.

Middleton earned a third straight trip to state and its eighth since 2002. The Cardinals now face New Berlin United in a state quarterfinal game Friday at 3 p.m. at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

“Never gets old,” Middleton coach Ben White said of going to state. “I’m very proud of this team for how much they have grown this season.  

“I've thrown multiple line-ups at them and they never questioned and made the adjustments as needed. We’ve had great leadership from our seniors and I'm hoping our experience at state from last year will be something we learn from going into our match on Friday.”

White didn’t have much film on Waukesha South. But he did know Steckl was far and away the Blackshirts’ No. 1 option.

So just before the match, White told his team he’d be stacking 6-foot-8 middle blocker Blake Sprecher and 6-foot-5 middle Pace Balster to combo block Steckl. The plan worked like a charm as Middleton’s gigantic duo slowed Steckl, while several others picked up the offensive slack.

Sprecher had a night to remember with 24 kills and just one error, while the rest of the team played at a high level throughout.

“We knew that if you could contain (Steckl), we had an advantage at all the other positions,” White said. “I have to give our guys a lot of credit because we went with a line-up that we hadn’t practiced or used all year. Basically I showed it to them in the locker room right before the match.”

White knew almost immediately, though, he made the right move.

On the first play of the match, Steckl had three chances for a kill. But Middleton dug him all three times and ended up converting the point.

That set the tone and the Cardinals never trailed in the first set.

“We had a great run with Pace, Cole (Spitler) and Kevin (McMahon) in the front row,” White said. “And I cannot praise our defense enough. Jacob Ross, Ben Miller and Thomas Robson controlled the back row and made play after play.”

South grabbed a 4-2 lead at the start of the second set. But Middleton began feeding Sprecher, who simply put the Cardinals on his back.

“There was a theme that went something like this — get the 6-8 guy the ball,” White said. “Blake Sprecher had a career night. He was unstoppable at the net, South didn't have an answer. Even when we forced Blake the ball and South had multiple people up blocking, he was able to make adjustments.”

The third set was tied, 8-8. Middleton’s Andrew Lepage then had a nifty tip point that sparked a 10-0 run.

The Cardinals cruised from there and are headed back to state.

“I think that our match against Waukesha South was our best match of the year,” said McMahon, a senior outside hitter.

Middleton also played extremely well in a 25-21, 25-17, 25-15 sectional semifinal win over Beloit Memorial last Tuesday.

The trio of Sprecher, McMahon and Balster dominated with 28 kills and 15 blocks.

Middleton had lost handily to Brookfield East in its final match of the regular season. So the Cardinals’ performance against Beloit Memorial was a welcome sight.

“After a sort of demoralizing loss to Brookfield East we had to look at things in a different way to find out what we had to do to get ready for playoffs,” Sprecher said. “And I feel as though that loss helped us immensely.

“In that loss we found out that we have to bring the intensity and be the aggressor in every game from here on out. If we can have the same intensity at state as we did (in sectionals), I don't see anyone that can stop us.”


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