Kaley Blake jumps to serve during the Demon Invite. Burlington placed third in the Muskego Invite Saturday and possesses a 10-6 record to start the season. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

Culture.

It’s something Burlington High School volleyball head coaches Dan Lynch and Teri Leach preach to no end.

To Leach, the word involves a committed front from day one of summer open gyms, where girls from all classes are on the same page about doing the right things and eventually returning to a place the Lady Demons have missed out on only once this decade – state.

“The culture is awesome,” said Leach, who enters her 17th season. “It makes it exciting to come to work. All 15 of these kids are in the gym creating a hard-working, team-first attitude. It’s one of the most intense groups we’ve seen – aggressive, competitive, but also looking out for each other.”

“We were really happy with our team last year. We started slow and got a lot better. We think we have a similar team this year, where we can continue to make improvements.”

On the first day of tryouts, the three seniors hosted a team lunch, and they initiated a fun post-tournament dinner at Culver’s last Wednesday after the Demons won their own invite.

The Demons have four freshmen on varsity and feature youth, and they must find a way to replace four-year stars Alyssa Turzenski and Reba Thomsen, along with tall, athletic middles Megan Wallace and Angie Tuchel, and three-sport athlete Mackenzie Zwiebel.

At the Demon Invite, an event Burlington wins every year, the Demons were challenged in the championship match by Franklin, which led 15-5 and 24-21 during the match.

Then, last weekend, at the prestigious Homestead Joust, Burlington showed its inexperience against the state’s top teams, posting a 3-4 overall record.

However, the Demons, who are ranked 12th in the Division 1 of the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association poll, just behind No. 11 Waterford, beat rival Westosha Central and took fourth-ranked Arrowhead to a third set.

Also, Burlington took No. 1 Brookfield East to the limit in a 25-22, 25-22 match.

Leading returning hitter Abby Koenen totaled 40 kills in the two-day tournament, and Brooklyn Vandehei, who improved her game playing elite sand volleyball in Illinois in the summer, led the way with 42 kills.

Newcomer Coley Haggard added 18 kills.

Kaley Blake, an all-state selection last season, dished 122 assists.

Returning starter Maddie Berezowitz, who assumes Turzenski’s libero role, led the team with 37 digs, and Vandehei added 36.

Blake had 10 aces, and Grace Peyron paced the girls with six blocks.

 

Wanting to work hard

“We lost a lot of leadership and talent, but this group has picked up on it,” Leach said. “The tone in open gyms this summer was great. They came in and played and just worked. They came to work hard and improve. Specific girls wanted to improve on specific skills.”

Berezowitz, Koenen, Blake and Vandehei lead a list of seven returners, and Peyron and Haggard will have big roles.

Leach said her daughter, Mackenzie Leach, along with fellow freshmen Camryn Lukenbill and Sam Naber will all contribute.

“We saw some youth in our first invite, but they stuck together and bailed each other out,” Leach said. “We have a lot of offensive weapons, and we want to get our middles more involved. There’s some good pieces. If we can pass and be in system, we have a fabulous setter who gets people open.”

“We know what our offense can be.”

Other girls in the mix this fall will be Amanda Viel, Cayla Gutche, Emily Alan, Laren Baldowsky, Lexi Hill and Tamlyn Kretcschmer.

Leach said Waterford is a legit contender to the Southern Lakes Conference crown, which belonged to Westosha Central in the regular season last here. However, Burlington won the conference tournament.

This season, the Wolverines feature all-state first team star Mia Grunze, a 6-foot-2 high-flyer, and her younger sister Mariah is another imposing outside threat.

“Every year, we always want to go far, but we don’t talk about state,” Leach said. “We talk about competing and improving. If we do those things, we put ourselves in a position to get to state.”

“We try to stay focused on the building blocks to get there.”

The Division 1 state runners-up will continue to preach culture, and that accentuates the little things.

“We put that word on the board and we had our athletes ask each other what that means,” Leach said. “It’s thinking team first and not me first. We’re talking about little things, not liking your position, not liking your role, not liking the drill we’re doing, but you’re staying positive and contributing all the time.”

“Culture kids don’t put their shoulders down when they make a mistake, they stay confident, and they don’t snipe at teammates. In their club sport, they may play back row, and we may need them to hit here. It could be based on the opponent. The whole program does it, varsity, junior varsity and freshmen.”

 

Schedule

(HOME GAMES ALL CAPS)

August – 31: ELKHORN. September – 2: at Muskego Invite. 7: at Union Grove. 9: at West Allis Hale Invite. 12: WESTOSHA CENTRAL. 14: at Racine Case. 19: at Waterford. 22-23: at West Bend Sprawl. 26: at Wilmot. October – 2: MUSKEGO. 3: DELAVAN-DARIEN. 10: at Lake Geneva Badger. 14: SLC meet at Elkhorn.

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