Burlington remains a state contender

Abby Koenen had a strong hitting day last Saturday in West Bend. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

The rumors of their demise were greatly exaggerated.

After two crucial Southern Lakes Conference losses to Westosha Central and Waterford in the past two weeks, the Burlington girls volleyball team needed a good showing at last weekend’s 24-team Lynn LaPorte Sprawl at West Bend East High School to boost confidence and demonstrate their continued elite status among the state’s best teams.

That’s exactly what they did, and a little more.

Burlington took third at the Sprawl, knocking off three top-10 teams and advancing to the semifinals of the gold, or top, bracket.

The performance bumped Burlington from honorable mention to the No. 7 spot in the Division 1 WVCA state rankings, as of Monday.

The Demons remain a major state player and will undoubtedly make noise down the stretch.

After an early season of ups and downs, the young team is maturing and progressing quickly, and its best volleyball may be ahead.

“It was a great weekend for us,” said head coach Teri Leach. “I’m loving the ability of this team to stay focused on improvement and not necessarily each win or loss. We’ve had a couple of tough conference losses as of late, but are able to bounce back with strong volleyball.”

“We we pass and are in system, we feel like we can play with everyone. Our losses continue to come when we are out of system.”

It was a who’s who of state volleyball powers last weekend, as Burlington benefitted from elite competition.

Victories came against No. 3 Brookfield East, 20-25, 25-21, 18-16, No. 5 Brookfield Central, 25-23, 25-11 and Division 2 No. 3 Kettle Moraine Lutheran, 25-9, 25-18.

Against second-ranked Neenah, which beat Burlington in the state championship in 2016 and went on to lose in the championship of this year’s Sprawl, the Demons fell, 25-18, 25-21.

Then, fourth-ranked Menomomee Falls knocked off the Lady Demons, 26-24, 25-23.

 

Depth allows lineup changes

“Lineups are still changing based upon match needs,” Leach said. “Different players each have different strengths or weaknesses that are best utilized based upon matchups. The team as a whole is continuing to make strides as we work to improve our ball control consistency.”

Outside hitter Abby Koenen led the offensive attack with 57 kills, dazzling with her power and placement. She enjoyed a .355 hitting percentage.

Camryn Lukenbill led the team with a .391 percentage, and she totaled 12 kills.

Maddie Berezowitz had 21 kills, Brooklyn Vandehei added 19 and Coley Haggard tallied 16.

Cayla Gutche and Kaley Blake dazzled on the service line, each tallying 10 aces.

Blake had 106 assists.

With serve-receive an integral part of what Burlington does, passing is key. Berezowitz and Sam Naber helped control things in the back row and turn defense into offense with 44 and 39 digs, respectively.

Blake and Koenen each added 18 digs, and freshman Mackenzie Leach added 13 digs and eight kills.

Blake paced the Demons with seven blocks.

Leach said their isn’t one standout team in the state. Therefore, when things are clicking, her squad can beat anyone.

“I think the girls realize that we will see tough opponents on a regular basis, through conference play and tournaments,” she said. “All of these matches are tests to prepare us mentally to compete down the stretch at the end of the season. The state in general has not had one dominant team this season. All of the top teams are consistently battling each other with various outcomes. I think we know that when we do certain things, we can play with anyone.”

 

 

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