Ben White, Middleton's beloved boys volleyball coach, diagnosed with lymphoma

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton boys volleyball coach Ben White was recently diagnosed with lymphoma./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MILWAUKEE — Parker Van Buren was mad.

Sure, Middleton’s sensational senior outside hitter was upset the Cardinals fell to mighty Milwaukee Marquette in a five-set thriller last Thursday. The host Hilltoppers held off the scrappy Cardinals, 25-17, 25-16, 25-27, 21-25, 15-7 in matchup of top-5 powers.

But what had Van Buren even more angry is that he and his teammates wanted to produce a win for head coach Ben White.

White was recently diagnosed with lymphoma and broke the news to his team three days before the Marquette match. White wasn’t at Marquette High School last week — and will scale back his coaching duties for the time being — so the Cardinals wanted to bring a win home for their popular head coach.

“I took the news really hard,” Van Buren said. “So, I’m really mad we didn't get a win for Coach. But we’re going to keep playing for him. We’ll be playing for him all year long.”

Assistant coach Justin Haack, who is taking over while White is out, said the Cardinals have had a rough time since finding out the news about White.

“It’s a tough time for everyone,” Haack said.

White went to the doctor for what he thought was digestive issues. Instead, White left with a diagnosis he never saw coming.

“It’s certainly not what I expected,” White said.

For the time being, White won’t travel to road games. He’ll attend home games and practices when his schedule allows.

Right now, volleyball doesn’t seem as important as it did a few weeks ago.

“I’ve got to focus on getting better,” White said.

The Cardinals all wore neon green shoelaces against Marquette in support of White. During a pre-game prayer, Marquette’s public address announcer also asked fans to keep White in their prayers.

“It’s been tough on everyone,” Van Buren said.

The Hilltoppers were awfully tough, too.

Marquette cruised to easy wins in the first two sets. Middleton’s only lead in either set was 3-2 in the first as the Hilltoppers looked like they’d make quick work of the Cardinals.

“Our passing was not very good early on,” Haack said. “But it improved quite a bit and helped us get back into the match.”


Marquette led throughout the third set and held a 21-19 advantage late. But Van Buren had four service points during a 5-1 Middleton run that gave the Cardinals a 24-22 lead.

Marquette answered with three straight points to reclaim a 25-24 edge. But after a Hilltoppers’ service error, senior outside hitter Scott Buros had a kill and senior Matthew Stormer served up an ace as Middleton pulled out a 27-25 win.

Middleton trailed, 7-3, in the fourth set, but used a 10-3 run to grab a 13-10 lead. Van Buren followed with a pair of kills and Ruben Emmerich had an ace as the lead ballooned to 18-13.

From there, the Hilltoppers never came closer than four points and Middleton cruised home and forced a fifth game.

“I thought it was a real positive the way we came back,” Haack said. “(Marquette) is a great team and a great program, but we didn't go away.”

No they didn’t. But in the fifth and deciding set, Marquette raced to leads of 6-1, 10-4 and 12-5. Van Buren had back-to-back kills to pull Middleton within 13-7, but the Hilltoppers were simply too much.

Afterwards, the Cardinals were bummed about losing the match.

They were even more bothered that they couldn’t provide some good news for their head coach.

“We battled back and that’s great,” Van Buren said. “Our passing improved and our setting got better and better. We did do some good things to get back in it, but we really wanted to win for Coach. That’s what I’m most disappointed about.”



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