Burlington captures first SLC crown since 2014

Drew Pesick (from left), Andy Ellingham, Sam Lois and David Paul celebrate after winning game three Thursday night at Westosha Central High School. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

PADDOCK LAKE – The torch has officially been passed in the Southern Lakes Conference for boys volleyball.

On Thursday night, the visiting Burlington Demons knocked off reigning conference champion Westosha Central in four games behind strong passing and even more powerful blocking, alongside an insatiable intensity and desire to win.

After splitting the first two games, Burlington held off the pesky, game Falcons’ squad 25-23 and 29-27 in the final games to improve to 6-0 in the SLC, a full two games ahead of 4-2 Central with two conference matches to play.

Burlington is 20-9-1 overall.

Since the Demons beat the Falcons both times this season, Burlington clinched the SLC title, as the worst-case scenario is both teams finish with two conference losses.

The teams were fairly evenly matched throughout, but the Demons’ will to win shined late in game three behind dominant net play from senior Drew Pesick, and continued in a thrilling final sequence in game four where David Paul, Pesick and Malik Tiedt carried Burlington.

“Westosha played a great game, but we really wanted this win,” said Burlington coach Mike Jones. “We’ve come full circle this season and become a much better team offensively and defensively. Our ability to stay in the moment and not let a couple points here or there fluster us really is where a lot of our success comes.”

“We’re moving the ball around and making them guess where we’re going to set the ball. Our hitters are putting the ball in good places and making smart decisions.”

 

Pesick sparks momentum shift

After taking the first set, 25-20, Central utilized strong middle hitting from 6-foot-5 Mason Welter, passing from Connor Muff and outside hitting from Joey Michelau to bounce back with a 25-22 win.

Quick sets from Michelau to Welter led to middle kills that Burlington couldn’t stop, and a Burlington error and Welter slam sealed the game two win.

But the momentum seemed to change late in the third game, when Pesick sparked the Demons in the middle. After another quick set to a booming Welter, the Central duo dialed up the same play, only to have Pesick perfectly time a block kill and give the Demons a 21-20 lead.

Pesick added two more blocks before his kill capped the 25-23 victory, and the 6-foot-5 senior pumped both fists and let out a roar to fire up his teammates, who displayed over-the-top energy and emotion all night.

The match’s pinnacle came in game four, when the teams simply refused to lose, with ties at 24, 25, 26 and 27.

Paul kept the Falcons defense guessing with middle and outside sets, and Pesick, Sawyer Dujardin and Malik Tiedt obliged with kills in the final moments.

Tiedt, who led the Demons with 15 kills, provided back-to-back stuffs to give Burlington 26-25 and 27-26 leads.

But Central countered with Jason Olson and Joey Michelau points before Pesick ended the match at 29-27 with a piercing, strategically-placed kill from the left side.

Tyler Duesing, Sam Lois and Trey Krause were able to dig just about everything, setting up Paul to run the offense to perfection. Andy Ellingham complemented Pesick in the middle, forming an impenetrable block in the final two games.

“We brought more emotion to this game because we really wanted to beat them, and it feels really great to be on top of the conference, as opposed to years prior where we were in the middle or bottom,” Pesick said.

“The best thing for us has been team chemistry. We’re really close, and we’re just finding ways to win. We’re helping each other when things aren’t going our way.”

Pesick finished with five blocks in total, and Paul, who chipped in key kills with clever ball placement, totaled a whopping 49 assists.

Krause paced the team with 21 digs.

“We had our moments where we faltered, but the Demons this year have found a way to fight back in just about every situation,” Jones said. “We are so proud of this team and are looking forward to the home stretch and still having the possibility at an undefeated conference run.”

 

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