Boys spikers fall in sectional finals

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Adam Hatlan/For the Times-Tribune
Ruben Emmerich couldn’t believe his Middleton boys volleyball team lost to Kettle Moraine in a sectional final last Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

SUN PRAIRIE — Middleton boys’ volleyball interim coach Justin Haack said the 2019 season was about far more than just volleyball.

Haack said the Cardinals learned a lot about life.

Haack has been filling in much of the year for head coach Ben White, who is battling lymphoma. Before Middleton’s WIAA sectional final against Kettle Moraine last Saturday, the Cardinals donned “His Fight is My Fight” T-shirts in support of their beloved coach.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, their emotional season came to a disappointing end when the third-seeded Lasers stunned top-seeded Middleton, 3-2, at Sun Prairie High School.

“We’re disappointed. We knew we’d have to play a solid match,” Haack said. “Credit to Kettle Moraine, they came out and played really well. They knew they would have to serve tough against us, and they did.”

After losing the first set, 25-21, Middleton rallied back and took the next two sets, 25-17, 25-17. But Kettle Moraine won an intense fourth set, 25-23, then captured the fifth set, 15-9.

The Cardinals were seeking their seventh consecutive state appearance and 12th in school history. Interestingly, the last team to beat Middleton in a sectional final was Kettle Moraine in 2012.

“They didn’t do anything that surprised us tonight. We knew they were scrappy,” Haack said. “We knew they played defense well, they passed well, they served tough. We knew we were bigger than them, but size doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re not able to pass the ball and run your offense as well as you want to.”

Big Eight Player of the Year Parker Van Buren was a force for the Cardinals. Van Buren finished with 35 kills, many of them emphatically, as the 6-foot-9 senior outside hitter did all he could to lift Middleton back to state.

Senior outside hitter Scott Buros finished with nine kills, as well.

“Parker is a special player,” White said. “There were a couple hits tonight where he broad jumped and put it down. He went from a raw player to an all-around player for us this season.”

Van Buren, a senior who will play collegiately at Loyola University next season, was subdued afterwards.

“We thought we could pull this off,” Van Buren said. “Our passing was not as good as usual tonight. It really impeded our play. When our passing was on, we won the games, when it wasn’t, we couldn’t find the court. Kettle Moraine is a good team and didn’t make mistakes.”

The Lasers played with great energy in the first set, building an 11-7 lead and forcing a Middleton timeout. Trailing 19-14, the Cardinals took a second timeout with hopes of regrouping. That never happened, though, and Kettle Moraine captured the first set, 25-21.

Middleton responded in the second and third sets, building comfortable leads and winning both by 25-17 scores. Van Buren had 16 kills in those two sets, including the decisive kill to finish the third set.

Middleton started strong in the fourth set, building a 12-8 lead and forcing Kettle Moraine to call timeout. The Lasers then countered with an 8-2 run and grabbed a 16-14 lead.

The teams were tied, 20-20, but Kettle Moraine made the big plays at the end of the set and pulled out a 25-23 win.

The Lasers carried that momentum into the fifth set, jumping to a 7-2 lead. Middleton closed within 7-5 and was within striking distance at 11-8 late.

But the Lasers won four of the next five points and advanced to state for the third time since 2015.

“Kettle Moraine won the serving and passing game, and that’s kind of been the key all year,” White said. “We have the offensive weapons, but Kettle Moraine missed very few serves. They took us out of our offense, and credit to Kettle Moraine, they played a solid game.”

White sat with the Cardinals on the bench, a welcome sight for anyone affiliated with the Middleton program.

“We knew he would miss time, and we really looked forward to any practice or any match that he was able to show up at,” Haack said. “To have him on the bench tonight was great.”

Van Buren agreed.

“It was awesome,” Van Buren said of White being at the match. “Just the fact that he made it out and he’s doing better. It was really nice to have him on the bench with us.”

For White, being on the bench was another step on his journey. 

“It was great to be on the sideline tonight. This is what pushes me to get through. These little highlights throughout the week give me goals,” White said. “I was able to watch my daughter run some cross country this year, my youngest is in basketball, the middle child is going to play some volleyball. We get through this as a family, and the volleyball team is my family, and then we take the next step.”

Haack, who wanted to help out and support White in any way possible, was extremely proud of how the Cardinals handled a difficult season.

“I know the boys will say they fell short, but they learned a lot about life,” Haack said. “This team accomplished a lot on the court, but I’m just as proud of how they responded to everything off the court and how they supported their coach.”

 

Nov. 2

WIAA sectional final

Kettle Moraine ... 25  17  17  25  15

Middleton ……… 17  25  25  23   9

 

MIDDLETON (leaders) — Kills: Van Buren 40. Assists: Statz 45. Blocks: Emrick 2. Aces: Van Buren 6. Digs: Stormer 14.

 

 

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