Lepage brothers shine for MHS

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton senior setter Andrew Lepage (left) is one of the top setters in the state, while his brother, Mattie, serves a vital role as the Cardinals’ team manager./Photo submitted

Mattie Lepage doesn’t have a single kill or assist for Middleton’s boys volleyball team this season.

He hasn’t recorded an ace, block or a dig.

But Lepage has become a vital part of Middleton’s sensational squad, which clinched a fifth straight trip to state Thursday night. And the Cardinals’ junior manager is the energetic, vivacious and spirited leader Middleton simply can’t do without.

Lepage, the younger brother of Cardinals’ standout setter Andrew Lepage, was born with Down’s syndrome. While that has slowed Mattie in some areas, his love of volleyball isn’t one of them.

Mattie has an unparalleled zest and gusto for volleyball — as well his managerial duties. And his enthusiasm has been an important ingredient in Middleton’s outstanding season.

“Everybody loves having Mattie around,” Middleton coach Ben White said. “He smiles a lot and calms people down. He’s talkative, but not too talkative. The team loves him. Really, he’s just one of the guys.”

Three years ago, Mattie’s parents — Rob and Tammie — asked White if he could find a place in the program for Mattie.

White knew that Andrew, a sophomore at the time, was going to be a key cog in Middleton’s future. And White wanted to be sure that Mattie’s presence wouldn’t be a distraction for Andrew.

That’s never been the case, though.

Mattie is focused and motivated in taking care of his duties. Mattie gets the balls out before each practice, sets up the scoreboard, helps keep score and gathers balls during practice.

Andrew, one of the top setters in the state who has shattered the school record for assists since volleyball went to rally scoring in 2004, keeps an eye out for his younger brother. For the most part, though, it’s business as usual.

“Andrew’s a special, special kid,” White said. “Andrew kind of watches over him, but Mattie being here has never been a distraction for Andrew.

“At first, that was one of the things I was a little worried about. But that’s never been a problem. We’re fortunate to have them both in our program.”

Andrew agreed.

“I think it’s been really nice and helped us get even closer,” Andrew said of his relationship with Mattie. “He gets so excited when we do well, probably more excited than a lot of us do. It’s just great having him around.”

Having Andrew around has been awfully great for the Cardinals, as well.

Middleton, which won its 11th Big Eight Conference title in 12 years earlier this season, has never had a setter quite like Andrew.

Andrew entered the postseason with 2,161 career saves, more than double that of Michael Umhoefer (1,017) on the career leaders list.

Andrew also ranks fifth on Middleton’s career digs list (496) and seventh in career aces (79).

“We have a lot of depth, but Andrew does a terrific job of spreading it out,” White said. “He keeps everybody involved, but at crunch time, he knows where to go with the ball.”

Middleton has gone winless at state in each of its last five appearances. But with Andrew leading a deep and gifted group, the Cardinals believe they’ll have a terrific chance to end that drought this year.

“I’ve been there the last two years and I really hope this is the time for us to get a win,” Andrew said. “We’ve definitely got the pieces to get it done.

“We’ve already beat a lot of the top teams we could see at state and our goal is to become elite. That’s what we’re pushing towards.”

White’s 2008 and ’09 teams both won matches at state. And White believes these Cardinals are certainly capable of doing the same thing.

“Top to bottom, this is one of the best teams I’ve had,” White said. “The 2008 and ’09 teams have kind of been the gold standard around here. But this team certainly has a chance to do everything those teams did, and more.”

When the Cardinals do well, few players are more excited than Mattie.

He’ll hug players like senior libero Thomas Robson and his brother, Andrew. He’ll give some a fist bump.

But he’s as passionate as anyone on the Cardinals’ bench.

So, just what would Mattie do if Middleton won a match at state?

“Oh man, Mattie would definitely be hyped,” Andrew said. “It would be awesome.”

Much like the Lepage brothers have been for Middleton’s program.

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