Boys spikers shine at Whitefish Bay

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Louis Hinshaw (6), Brian Verganz (12) and Middleton's boys volleyball team finished second at the Whitefish Bay Invitational last Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s boys volleyball team has enjoyed another strong season.

But Cardinals’ head coach Ben White has been waiting for his team to produce a breakthrough moment.

That wait is over.

Middleton went to the star-studded Whitefish Bay Invite last Saturday and finished second. The Cardinals reached the championship match where it took top-ranked Marquette to the wire before the Hilltoppers prevailed, 9-25, 25-19, 15-7.

“So proud of the boys,” White said. “They worked harder than ever and proved they can play with the top team in state. We have to capture this momentum.”

Eagan Peters-Michaud 43 and Cole Spitler both had 43 kills in the tournament, while Andrew Lepage and Peters-Michaud both had five aces.

Jack Herder had eight blocks, Lepage had 133 assists and Thomas Robson added 77 digs.

“What a difference a week makes,” said White, whose team struggled the previous week at the Middleton Invite. “And what an interesting week it was for the boys. I’m very proud of the way they rebounded after a rough Saturday at the Cardinal Invite.”

Middleton opened with an 18-21, 21-10, 15-4 win over Racine Case in pool play.

“Before the match started I reminded the seniors that this was their last 16-team tournament of their career,” White said. “No other Saturday will compare to this one.

“Maybe that was in their mind in set two or maybe it was some tweaks to the lineup, but whatever woke the boys up worked. We rolled the next two sets and set the tone for the rest of the day. Big kudos to Jack Herder who started set two in the middle for us and didn’t come out for the rest of the day. He had a career day and was a big reason why we did so well.”

Middleton then rolled past Burlington, 21-13, 21-12.

“Our match versus Burlington was key, as they are in our sectional,” White said. “It’s always good to see a sectional opponent and to get a win over them. We did a good job of working our offense around their main hitter/blocker. Andrew (Lepage) ran a great show and Brian (Verganz) was big offensively in the middle.”

The Cardinals then fell to No. 1 Marquette, 21-19, 21-16, in their final pool play match. Middleton led the first set, 16-12, but couldn't finish.

The Hilltoppers then controlled the second set.

“The boys came to play,” White said. “The defense of Thomas Robson and company in the back row is what wins championships.

“Between Thomas, Ben Miller, Brady Schmitt and Carson Blair, it’s tough for the opponent to find an opening in the back row.”

Middleton advanced to the quarterfinals, where it rolled past New Berlin, 25-11, 25-19. New Berlin defeated Middleton three times last year, including once at the state tournament. So the win was extra sweet for the Cardinals.

“This was the most hyped the players had been all year,” White said. “We absolutely dominated the match. Huge win for us.”

In the semifinals, Middleton defeated No. 7 Wauwatosa East, 25-22, 25-22.

“Wauwatosa East has one of top players in the state and a solid middle attack,” White said. “But again the defense of Thomas (Robson) and Ben (Miller) in the back row and Andrew (Lepage) spreading the ball around gave us a great balance.”

Middleton advanced to the finals at Whitefish Bay for the first time since 2009.

In the championship match, Middleton rolled past No. 1 Marquette, 25-9, in the first set. But the Hilltoppers rallied back and took the next two sets, 25-19, 15-7.

“We had nothing to lose,” White said. “And Marquette didn’t take us too seriously.

“The boys put on a show in set one. We started out up 5-0 and extended that to 11-1. At that point, Marquette subbed out their entire starting lineup. I’ve never seen anything like it. But the guys didn’t let up.

“The guys were flawless and we woke the beast. But we stuck right with Marquette.”

Middleton also toppled Franklin, 25-15, 25-9, 25-12, last Friday.

Spitler and Casey McKean both had eight kills, while Robson had eight digs and three aces. Miller had eight digs and three aces, while Lepage added 24 assists.

“This was great experience for us, playing on a Friday and staying overnight in a hotel and getting to play the top teams in state the following day — much like the state tournament will be,” White said. “We were able to get everyone in versus Franklin and was pleased to see the performance of Casey McKean who led us with eight kills. He had a great week of practice and glad it carried over.”

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