Middleton's boys spikers simply reload

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Andrew LePage and Middleton’s boys volleyball team are hoping for another big season./File photo

They don’t rebuild inside Middleton’s boys volleyball program.

They reload.

It’s led to nine Big Eight Conference championships in the last 10 years and seven trips to state since 2006.

A few months back, though, Cardinals head coach Ben White wasn’t sure he’d be reloading in 2016.

“I'll be honest there was a point during the summer when I thought of this as a rebuilding year, but it's not,” White said. “It's a reloading. We have a great core of players.”

Middleton lost eight players from a team that won the Big Eight and qualified for the state tournament. But the Cardinals should be loaded for bear again.

Middleton brings back a handful of players that were vital cogs a year ago. And the Cardinals have a solid group of newcomers ready to make their mark.

A few months back, White wasn’t sure that would be enough to maintain dominance in the improving-Big Eight. But after seeing his team practice the last 10 days, White is more optimistic than ever.

Junior libero Thomas Robson, a first-team all-Big Eight player last season, will be one of Middleton’s leaders. Since 2004, no one in the Cardinals’ program has more career digs than Robson — and he still has two years left.

“And he continues to improve,” White said. “He is becoming more vocal on and off the court and his confidence is at a higher level. This team will win by defense this year, not offense and we’ll be led by Thomas.”

Senior outside hitter Cole Spitler also seems poised for a big year. Spitler was an honorable mention all-conference middle blocker last year when he filled in for an injured Jordan Futch. After a big offseason and a move back to his most natural position, Spitler could have a huge final season.

“Last year was supposed to be a learning year for Cole, but he was thrown into the fire and we got a lot out of him,” White said. “This year he will be counted on to be our top option on offense.

“The loss at state left a bad taste in Cole’s mouth and no person in my 21 years in the program has worked harder in the offseason to transform himself. Cole is an athlete and will be a force. He might even surprise himself as to what he can accomplish this year.”

Junior setter Andrew LePage was a second-team all-conference player last year and should be even better this fall.

“Last year Andrew stepped up as a sophomore on the varsity squad and shared setting duties before taking over the role at the end of the season,” White said. “Andrew has a lot of valuable experience and has the trust of his teammates. He knows the game and can run a solid offense for us. We'll also need his serve to help keep the other team out of system.”

Senior outside hitter/defensive specialist Ben Miller is a versatile player who will play a key role.

“Ben has a lot of experience in the back row,” White said. “He and Thomas have great chemistry and can read each other very well. Due to Ben's ability to play multiple positions we have a great flexibility on the team and Ben can help us in many ways.”

Senior outside hitter Louis Hinshaw was a key reserve last year who will take on a more prominent role this season.

“Louis provides us with a little bit bigger block and will need another person on the court to take some of the load off of Cole,” White said.

There are several newcomers White expects to contribute right away.

Junior Brian Vergenz will step into one of the vacancies at middle hitter.

“With Cole moving to the outside, we are going to need two middles to step up and be forces both offensively and defensively,” White said. “Brian has shown he can be that player in practice and we'll have to see what he can do once we start playing for real. He just needs playing time and experience going against fast offenses that he hasn't seen yet.”

Sophomore outside hitter Eagan Peters-Michaud is raw, but one of the Cardinals’ top athletes.

“This summer he made a national team for his age group and got great experience,” White said of Peters-Michaud. “Much like Brian, Eagan has the ability. He just needs to play against other teams to see how fast the game can go at the much higher level.”

The Big Eight, a league the Cardinals have dominated for a decade now, is much improved. Madison Memorial, Madison La Follette and Fort Atkinson all could challenge for conference supremacy.

But Middleton is still Middleton. And White takes great pride in what his program has done — and plans to do in 2016.

“What I am most proud of is the culture we have created in the gym,” White said. “The older players and alumni take great pride in what we have accomplished. The players create the expectations in the gym and off the court, it's my job to guide the team in the right direction. I know many programs in the area and state look up to us.

“We have no question mark at libero, we know who our outside is, we believe we can win with defense. These guys are a cohesive unit and we have just started.

“We have to build trust and get experience. I know conference and our sectional will be tougher than it has been in years. This will be different for us this year, being tested night in and night out. I think we will be ready for the challenge.”

 

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