Boys spikers earn state berth

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Adam Hatlan/For the Times-Tribune
Ben White led Middleton's boys volleyball team to the state tournament for a fifth consecutive year./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s boys volleyball team has done it again.

For the fifth consecutive year, the Cardinals are headed to the state tournament.

Top-seeded Middleton was able to survive a first-set scare against third-seeded Burlington and roll to a 25-22, 25-17, 25-19 in a sectional final held in Middleton last Thursday.

Middleton (33-6) recently won its sixth consecutive Big Eight Conference regular season title before locking up its 10th state appearance in school history. Burlington finished the year 26-10.

“This year is a lot of excitement because ... they've seen everything,” Middleton head coach Ben White said. “They don’t get rattled, they don't get nervous. To take a team like this, with the confidence that they're playing with, to state is pretty exciting.”

Middleton will now face Kaukauna (27-6) on Friday at 5:30 p.m. in a state quarterfinal at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. The Cardinals beat Kaukauna 2-0 midway through the year. 

The veteran Cardinals feature an abundance of experience with 13 upperclassmen. The senior class has now been represented four years in a row at state.

One of those seniors is libero Thomas Robson, who will be making his fourth appearance at state. Robson has been a starter since his freshman year and is thrilled to be headed back to the big stage.

“Literally I have chills right now,” Robson said. “To have the opportunity to play at such a great school that can compete for a state title ... the goal isn't sectionals, it's the state tournament."

White knows having experience will prove invaluable in the state tournament.

“Especially with (senior captains) Andrew (Lepage) and Thomas (Robson),” White said. “They're the coaches on the court. Everybody else just has to fill in and know their roles. That's what we've been doing really well lately.”

That experience was on display in the thrilling first set.

Middleton looked relaxed right out of the gate, taking an early 7-2 lead. Burlington responded though, and the teams went back and forth until the Demons forged a 16-16 tie, forcing White to call timeout.

Middleton jumped ahead briefly until Burlington stormed back to take a 22-20 lead. White called another timeout and put Middleton in a situation it had worked on in practice.

“(White) said ‘stay calm,’ ” Robson said of the first-set situation. “When we got back out on the court (after the timeout), I cracked a little joke with the front row. We ended up pulling it out.”

“It's one of those moments you feel you did something right as a coach,” White said of the situation. “We ended practice (one day last week) pretending every game was 22-20 and we were down. We played five games like that and I wouldn't let (the starters) leave until they won.”

The five-point spurt to close out the first set was fueled by senior Casey McKean, who came through in the clutch with three kills and one block. Avery Krantz hammered home a kill to claim the first set.

Middleton controlled the second set and rolled to a 25-17 win. Krantz was there again to seal it for the Cardinals, throwing down his second set-clinching kill.

Burlington found some life in the third set, hanging with Middleton most of the way. But the Cardinals decided enough was enough and pulled away to take the final set, 25-19.

Middleton defeated Burlington, 2-0, earlier in the year, but White said the young Demons were one of the most improved teams they had faced.

“To their credit, they did a great job serving, serving us tough, keeping us off balance a little bit,” White said. “Our goal was to attack them deep on our serves and have our offense go through the middle. For the most part we accomplished that.”

Now Middleton will look to use their experience as they attempt to bring home their first state title in school history.

Robson is hoping they can stay hot and make history at state.

“With being a lot of the guys’ last year, we really want to be known for something,” Robson said. “We really want to leave our mark. I think we already have, but now we're going to just keep pushing for it.”

 

Middleton ………….. 25  25  25

Burlington ………….. 22  17  19

Team Leaders: Digs (62) — Robson 19. Assists (38) — Lepage, 37. Kills (38) — Vergenz 13. Blocks (5) — Vergenz, Lepage 2. Aces (3) — Robson 2.

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