Lady Demons at state tonight, boys play in sectional final

Burlington junior Maddie Berezowitz gets up for a hit last weekend against Westosha Central. Berezowitz switched to outside hitter this season. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

 

It really didn’t matter that the Burlington girls varsity volleyball was particularly young this season, with only a few seniors.

It didn’t matter that the Lady Demons lost top players like Alyssa Turzenski, Reba Thomsen and Megan Wallace to graduation after advancing to the WIAA Division 1 state championship match last season.

And it certainly didn’t matter that Burlington slipped up during the Southern Lakes Conference regular season, when Westosha overwhelmed the Demons with a sweep at Burlington High School and conference champion Waterford beat the Demons in five sets at Waterford.

Burlington was finding the right chemistry and the proper lineups for success, as veteran coaches Teri Leach and Dan Lynch know as good as anyone how to make the most with the talent they have.

So it took some time to work out the kinks, but the reward has been more than worth it.

Burlington got its revenge with victories over Waterford and Westosha at the conference tournament to win it, and once again the girls breezed through the sectional with nine game wins compared to only one loss, a blip in a 3-1 win over Kenosha Bradford in the regional final.

On Saturday night, everything came together with a beat-down sweep of Westosha Central.

The Demons are setting the pace with an aggressive serve and strong passing on serve-receive, and the defense was stellar throughout the sectional.

They’ll finally get a major test with the 33-6 Mukwonago Indians Thursday at the Resch Center in Green Bay. It is the fourth consecutive state tournament appearance for the Demons.

I remember being a freshman for the school’s first state trip in 1996, but nowadays the Demons are a state perennial powerhouse, and it doesn’t really matter what kind of inexperience is on the team.

Burlington won state titles in 2011 and 2012, has owned this decade in terms of volleyball excellence, and this season Leach and Lynch once again have the team in position to contend for a state title.

Abby Koenen has been the team’s top hitter, Brooklyn Vandehei, Maddie Berezowitz and Sam Naber have stood out defensively, and Kaley Blake runs the offense at setter with crisp, accurate passing.

Koenen, Vandehei, Camryn Lukenbill, Berezowitz and Emily Alan all contributed three or more kills Saturday, so the offense has a lot of weapons.

Kudos to the Demons for continuing perhaps the strongest tradition in area sports, and best of luck this weekend.

The Burlington girls volleyball players pose with Demon students after last Saturday’s victory. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

Lady Toppers almost make state

Bailey Racky’s bunch enjoyed its deepest playoff run in her short tenure as head coach and almost pulled out a big upset Saturday night.

What was most impressive was the way the Catholic Central volleyball team fought, time and again, when its back was against the wall.

On Oct. 27 in Monticello against top-seeded Randolph, No. 2 Catholic Central fell behind, 1-0, and 2-1, before winning the final two sets, 25-22 and 15-10.

Then, on Saturday, at Oshkosh Lourdes Academy against another 2 seed, the Toppers lost the first two sets and faced a sweep before winning the next two sets.

In the final game, the Toppers fell behind, 6-2, and it was too late in a 15-8 defeat.

Senior Anna Hackbarth left it all on the court in her final game with 16 kills and 18 digs.

Freshman Sammie Seib added 20 kills and 24 digs.

It was an amazing season for the Lady Toppers, who finished 30-11 and won the regular season Metro Classic Conference title.

Though several seniors will depart, young talent like Seib, Grace Antlfinger, Ella Shaw, Grace Spiegelhoff and Elizabeth Klein means the future is bright.

“After our first or second play date, their eyes opened up big time and they really saw the potential for success,” Racky said.

“This has been my favorite team ever to coach. They were a true team, and it was never about anyone personally.”

 

Upon further review, football team on rise

It will go down as one of the gutsiest calls of all time.

On Oct. 20 at Waterford Union High School, the Burlington football team answered a Wolverines overtime touchdown with a touchdown of its own in a WIAA Division 2 Level 1 playoff game.

Nick Webley’s catch cut it to 28-27, and it was decision time.

Without hesitation, coach Steve Tenhagen called for a two-point conversion, and the sideline lit up in approval.

Nick Klug felt pressure and was forced to roll out, and his pass to the end zone was batted down.

Waterford advanced, but the Demons played their most physical game of the season, held a 21-7 lead, and almost pulled off the victory in the end.

They say you go for the win on the road and play for the tie at home, and the Demons rolled the dice.

“Our coaching staff had a big decision to make at the end of the game and they all thought it was the right call to go for two,” said Webley. “I completely respect that decision and had faith in our coaching staff. That was by far one of the hardest decisions for a coach to make all season.”

Webley said the seniors did a good job promoting team chemistry, and the Demons played their most complete game in the playoffs.

The 6-4 overall record was the squad’s best record in a decade.

Junior lineman Taylon Hensley said there has been a culture change with the Demons, and things will only get better next season.

“We put Burlington on the map, and we will come back to win conference next year,” Hensley said.

Junior Julian Luciano credited seniors like Harrison George, Grant Tully, Klug, Ben Golon and Zeff Jones for instilling a culture of hard work on and off the field.

“Real class acts,” Luciano said of the seniors. “Model students and role models. Excelling in not only athletics and extra-curriculars, but committing themselves to four years of hard work in the classroom and on the field. They led us this year with a different attitude than we have had before, and it really showed through our play.”

While Tully said he’s proud the team fulfilled its goal of making the playoffs, junior Josh Letkewicz, who played well on the defensive line, said the team improved greatly throughout the season.

“We couldn’t have gotten to the place where we were against Waterford without our great coaching staff,” Letkewicz said. “Our defense had a tremendous year, and our offense picked it up at the end, and we did what we needed to do to get to the playoffs.”

“We had a great season and I’m sad it’s over, but I loved to play for this team and can’t wait to do it again.”

 

If you go

What: WIAA Girls Volleyball state tournament

Where: Resch Center, Green Bay

When: Burlington (32-10) vs. Mukwonago (33-6), Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Tickets: $8 per session, tickets available at door or online through WIAA website, www.wiaawi.org

Demon starters: Outside hitters – Senior Abby Koenen (358 kills, .286 hitting percentage), junior Maddie Berezowitz (109 kills, 240 digs). Right-side hitter – Senior Brooklyn Vandehei (128 kills). Middle hitters – Sophomore Emily Alan (69 kills, 27 solo blocks), freshman Camryn Lukenbill (97 kills, 29 solo blocks). Setter – Sophomore Kaley Blake (764 assists, 62 aces). Libero – Freshman Sam Naber (231 digs). Defensive specialist – Sophomore Cayla Gutche (50 aces, 41 digs).

 

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