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Boys spikers headed to state

Connor Zimmick didn’t waste any time looking up information on the 2013 WIAA boys volleyball sectional tournament after his Middleton Cardinals were eliminated a in the sectional title match at Kettle Moraine a year ago.

What the senior setter discovered not only made him smile, but it also made Zimmick more determined than ever to leave his mark on the program.

“When the schedule came out and I saw this night would be on my birthday, I said that was the match we had to get to,” Zimmick said last Thursday. “I did everything in my power. I willed the team. I tried to keep everyone’s spirits up and focused on the goal. That was winning the games.”

Zimmick did exactly that and led Middleton to a 30-28, 21-25, 25-19, 25-19 win over Kettle Moraine. The Cardinals earned their sixth trip to state in the program’s history and their first since 2009.

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Boys spikers one step from state

All season long, Middleton boys volleyball coach Ben White has asked his team to develop a closer’s mentality.

On Tuesday night, the Cardinals resembled Mariano Rivera.

Middleton cruised past visiting Beloit Memorial, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17, in a WIAA sectional semifinal. And the Cardinals’ performance down the stretch in each game was extremely impressive.

“We played our best down the stretch of each set, and that’s the first time I can say that this year,” White said. “I was impressed at how we closed out the sets against Beloit. We haven’t had much success doing that this year.”

Middleton advanced to a sectional final against Kettle Moraine, a match the Cardinals will host Thursday at 7 p.m. The state tournament is Nov. 15-16 at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee.

Middleton had an extremely balanced attack in beating the Purple Knights for a third time this season.

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Football Cards ousted by Oconomowoc


OCONOMOWOC — Everything was set up for a night Middleton’s football team would never forget.

The Cardinals were playing their best ball of the year. They were healthy and had a sense of belief.

And perhaps most importantly, Oconomowoc standout quarterback Canton Larson was sidelined for the teams’ WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game last Friday.

So after Middleton exited with a 27-24 loss to the Racoons, many of the Cardinals were admittedly stunned at what had just transpired.

“If you would have told me Tuesday or Wednesday they weren’t going to have (Larson), I would have thought it might be an easier game,” Middleton senior wideout Derek Rongstad said.

Middleton finished the year 8-3, while Oconomowoc improved to 11-0 and reached the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 1987.

Like Rongstad, senior right tackle Hayden Acker was stunned the year ended when it did.

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Fabulous 4th for girls XC team


Rachel Wians could very well be the poster girl for Middleton’s girls cross country team this fall.

From day one, the Cardinals preached development, improvement and peaking when it mattered most.

And no one exemplified that mantra more than Wians.

At last Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state meet at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids, Wians gave a memorable performance.

Wians finished 22nd overall — and 14th among individuals that were there with their team — and propelled Middleton to a fourth place team finish for the second straight year.

“I was super proud with my race,” said Wians, a junior. “I knew that I had to get out fast and maintain if I wanted to achieve my goal of an overall (personal record).

“Knowing it was my last race of the season I didn't want to have any regrets or what if’s. So I left it all out there on the course.”

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Boys XC team shines at state


The 2013 boys cross country season had been over for less than 24 hours.

And Middleton standout freshman Gus Newcomb already had a message for the rest of the state.

“The best teams in the state had better take note of us for next season,” Newcomb said. “Because our guns will be loaded come next fall.”

That was apparent the way the Cardinals finished off this season.

Middleton surprised many by simply qualifying for last Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 state meet held at The Ridges Golf Course in Wisconsin Rapids. The Cardinals then gave a solid performance and finished 15th at the 20-team event.

Stevens Point won the title with 83 points, while Madison West (124), Eau Claire Memorial (126), La Crosse Logan (156) and Madison La Follette (159) rounded out the top five.

Middleton finished with 381 points.

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Girls spikers ousted by Sun Prairie


The first set slipped away when they lost the last five points. The second set was a confluence of errors — hitting, service, and mental miscues.

By the time Amber Karn and her Middleton girls volleyball teammates caught their breath last Saturday, they were staring at the very real possibility Sun Prairie would sweep the Cardinals out of their own gym — a giant reality check for a team that had spent the previous day-and-a-half actively recruiting their classmates to come out and cheer them on to a state tournament berth.

“After we lost those first two games,” said Karn, a junior outside hitter, “we got together and said, ‘This is our house. Let's not have any regrets walking off this floor.’ ”

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Middleton swimmers win Big 8 Conference meet


When it all began back in August, Lauren Cabalka really had far more questions than answers.

Half of the roster was new. The lineup was in constant flux.

And Cabalka — Middleton’s girls swimming coach — was at best cautiously optimistic.

“We truly did not know how we were going to fill the holes we lost last season,” Cabalka said.

Here’s how: with talented youngsters and newcomers. And with veterans ready to take advantage of their chance.

In the end, the Cardinals never missed a beat.

Middleton continued its surprising season last Saturday, winning the Big Eight Conference meet for a fourth straight season. The Cardinals finished with 528 points to easily outdistance runner-up Verona/Mount Horeb (422.5) and the rest of the conference.

Middleton now hosts a WIAA Division 1 Sectional Saturday at 1 p.m. The state meet will be Nov. 16 at the UW-Natatorium.

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Girls spikers advance to sectional finals



WAUNAKEE — The pattern was eerily familiar. And déjà vu was the last thing Middleton’s girls’ volleyball team wanted Thursday night.

Twelve months ago, the Cardinals went to Waunakee for a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. That night, the host Warriors won Games 1, 4 and 5 and ended Middleton’s season with a 3-2 win.

On Halloween night, Middleton was back in the exact same gym at the exact same point in the playoffs — a sectional semifinal. And amazingly, the first four games followed an identical pattern as the 2012 match did.

“We said in the locker room before the fifth game, ‘This can not be like last year,’ ” Cardinals sophomore outside hitter Logan Welti said. “We all remember that really well … and we tried to flush it out of our heads.”

They did — although there were plenty of harried moments.

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Middleton KO's Memorial

Their once comfortable 21-point lead had been trimmed to a single score. The once exuberant Cardinal Nation was quiet had begun to sweat on this cold and extremely blustery night.

But with Middleton’s WIAA Division 1 playoff opener on the line last Friday, the Cardinals turned to their offensive line and dynamic senior running back Charles Braxton.

That was a winning formula as Middleton held off hard-charging Madison Memorial, 28-14, and won their first playoff game since 2010. The Cardinals also avenged a Week 1 loss to the Spartans, a defeat that fueled Middleton all season long.

Middleton (8-2) advanced to a Level 2 playoff game at Oconomowoc (10-0) Friday night at 7.

“It feels great,” said Braxton, the star of the night with 32 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns. “It was getting a little tense there.”

It sure was.

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Football Cards ready for Oconomowoc


They are explosive.

They are senior dominant.

And they are undefeated.

Oconomowoc’s football team is in the middle of a memorable season, and has a perfect 10-0 record.

Middleton will try ending the Coons’ dream season Friday night, when the teams meet at 7 p.m. in a WIAA Division 1 Level 2 playoff game.

Oconomowoc is a No. 2 seed, while Middleton (8-2) is seeded third.

“I know they're really good,” Cardinals senior running back Charles Braxton said. “But we’re pretty confident right now, too.”

Oconomowoc won the Wisconsin Little Ten Conference with a 7-0 mark. Along the way, the Coons had one of the most memorable wins in years, topping Wisconsin Lutheran 84-82, in a Week 6 battle.

That game went a long way towards Oconomowoc averaging 38.8 points per game and allowing 22.1 points per contest.


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