Boys spikers headed to state

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MTT News's picture
Adam Hatlan/For the Times-Tribune
Cole Spitler and Middleton's boys volleyball team are headed to state for the fourth straight year./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

In the late stages of any season, execution is vital.

For the Middleton’s boys volleyball team, proper execution meant a trip to state last Thursday.

The top-seeded Cardinals delivered and punched their ticket to the Milwaukee, defeating second-seeded Mukwonago, 25-12, 25-20, 25-19, in a WIAA sectional dinal held at Middleton High School.

Middleton advanced to the state tournament, which will be held Nov. 11-12 at Wisconsin Lutheran College. The Cardinals open with state quarterfinal match against Waukesha Catholic Memorial Nov. 11 at 5:30 p.m.

Middleton qualified for state for the fourth straight year and the ninth time since 2002.

The Cardinals played fundamentally sound against Mukwonago, recording only four service errors and controlling the net throughout the night.

“I was very pleased with how we played in the middle. Brian (Vergenz) and Jack (Herder) really controlled everything for us, both blocking and offensively,” said Middleton coach Ben White. “It’s one of those things where when we got good passes, we were focused on getting them (Vergenz and Herder) the ball. We executed pretty well.”

Junior middle hitter Brian Vergenz made a huge impact in the first set and made his presence felt throughout the match. Any time Mukwonago seemed to gain momentum, Vergenz was there to shut it down.

Mukwonago was focused on stopping Middleton’s outside hitters, leaving Vergenz open in the middle all night. Vergenz finished with 15 kills, including the all-important final kill to send Middleton to state.

“It felt great,” a grinning Vergenz said about the final play. “It totally felt great.”

Middleton was able to pass and set the ball efficiently during the match, which gave Vergenz his opportunities.

“(Setter) Andrew (Lepage) kept feeding me, and I was able to keep throwing the ball down,” Vergenz said.

White likes what he has in the middle, not only with Vergenz, but also 6-foot-7 senior Jack Herder.

“Brian has really stepped it up. He went from our third or fourth option to start the year. Now he’s probably our number one or two option,” said White. “It opens up so much for our outside (hitters) when a team has to focus on the middle. Mukwonago was focusing on our outside, giving Brian wide open shots. He’s really been one of the main keys for the last couple weeks of why we’re playing at the level we’re at.”

For now, White believes the middle might be a key to success at state.

“When you have a dominant middle like we have with Jack and Brian, offensively it makes you so much harder to play against,” White said.

Middleton set the tone immediately in the first set, exploding out of the gate to a 6-0 advantage on a run that featured three of Vergenz’s seven first-set kills. Another six-point burst midway through the set was enough of a cushion for Middleton to cruise to a 25-12 win. The Cardinals also had 12 kills in the first set.

Middleton raced to a 14-6 lead in the second set, but Mukwonago put some heat on the Cardinals. The Indians clawed their way back within 15-12, but senior defensive specialist Ben Miller was strong in the back row, digging nearly everything hit his way late in the set and thwarting the rally attempt.

Middleton edged Mukwonago, 25-20, to take a 2-0 lead.

Mukwonago jumped to a 5-3 lead to start the third set, but the Cardinals stormed back to regain the lead at 10-7, forcing a Mukwonago timeout. Two aces by junior Carson Blair helped Middleton remain in control throughout a tightly contested set.

Mukwonago pulled as close as 20-17, but Middleton’s forces on the outside and in the middle were too much to handle and the Cardinals prevailed, 25-19.

“We’re not going to overpower many of the big teams. We have to win by serving, passing, and defense,” White said. “Our serving pressure and just keeping the ball in play off the ground (helped us win tonight). Game one we played as well as we could defensively. Games two and three I thought we had too many three and four point lapses, but overall we played pretty well.”

Vergenz led the Cardinals with 15 kills, but Middleton got contributions from everywhere on the court.

Lepage (33 assists), Blair (three aces), and senior libero Thomas Robson (16 digs) made plays that allowed Herder (five kills), Cole Spitler (seven kills), Louis Hinshaw (three kills), and Eagan Peters-Michaud (six kills) to hammer away at the net.

The Cardinals have lost in the quarterfinals each of their last four trips to state. What will it take for Middleton to have success this time?

“The belief that we can play with anybody is really going to help this team,” White said.  “I don’t think the guys will be wide eyed when they get there. Thomas (Robson) has been there three times, it’s Ben (Miller’s) third time, Cole (Spitler’s) second time, Andrew (Lepage’s) second time. It’s not going to be new.”

White also thinks strong defense will be a key to success.

“With our defense, we can stay in any game,” White said. “If you play some defense, get in the middle and get a couple of kills … we’ll see what happens.”

White believes his team can compete with the best of the best, but knows they must execute and remain fundamentally sound.

“We can’t have any lapses where we give up three or four points at a time,” White said. “Against the top teams at state, they’re going to feed off those three or four points and take the momentum. If we can limit those (lapses), play defense, and pass well, I think we’ll be a tough out for whoever gets us.”

For Vergenz, who is making his first appearance at state, it’s all about execution.

“We’re all going to have to play really strong,” Vergenz said. “We’re going to have to pass well and get some kills. Everyone’s going to have to play their best. Everyone has to execute. Execute our individual roles. That’s how we can get far.”


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