Mayor Hefty, Principal Burling, pack of fans honor state champs

The state champion Demons posed Monday night under the Burlington Public Library gazebo, along with Burlington Mayor Jeannie Hefty. (Jake Hill/Journal Times)


By Mike Ramczyk

The celebration matched the accomplishment.

And then some.

Blinding spotlights and ear-shattering horns blasted Pine Street in downtown Burlington Monday night, as a convoy of area fire trucks, law enforcement and emergency vehicles paraded the state champion Burlington girls varsity volleyball team.

Fans lined Pine Street near Flippy’s Fast Food, waiting for the parade, which began on Milwaukee Avenue on the city’s north side, and proceeded to Wehmhoff Park, where Mayor Jeannie Hefty and Burlington High School Principal Eric Burling gave the coaches and players a fitting tribute under the library gazebo.

Burling began the ceremony with a joke about a local fan not realizing the decisive fifth game didn’t go to 25 points like the previous four, and the crowd broke out in laughter when Hefty admitted it was her.

“I’m the one with my head down thinking ‘are we gonna win this?’” Hefty said about her attendance of the championship match Saturday. “I didn’t know it stopped at 15 in the last game.”

Along with Burling’s congratulations, and Hefty’s official proclamation to the champs, each player got a turn on the microphone, sharing their state experience, which began with a victory over Mukwonago last Thursday in Green Bay and included wins over DSHA and previously undefeated River Falls to bring home the program’s third golden ball.

“Abby Koenen shared with me she had her eyes closed when she hit the final point,” Burling said.


State tournament tales

Junior Maddie Berezowitz made light of the hotel food situation, saying it was never a certainty what the team was going to eat and they’d often eat in the hotel lobby together.

Sophomore Emily Alan’s fondest memory was blocking powerful River Falls middle hitter Marissa Stockman, a Division 1 recruit, twice in a row in the championship-clinching 4-0 run to end the match.

And co-head coach Dan Lynch, perhaps the most veteran coach in the area with 30 years on his resume, fired up the crowd with his breakdown of the final play – a kill by Koenen that was made possible by a timely block.

“We’re up 14-13, and Cayla Gutche has got to get that ball in, or she knows I’m going to do one of my famous (makes angry face),” Lynch said to the crowd. “She put it in, and then Kaley Blake and Emily Alan stuffed that Division 1 middle. They made a diving save, and it gave us a free ball. So Gutche passed the free ball perfectly to Kaley, and as the ball left Blake’s hands, I saw the matchup Abby had, and in my head I said, ‘We just won.’”

For Lynch, the most important factor that pushed the team to this point was its resilience and ability to stick to the plan, no matter the adversity.

“Their ability to take information and absorb it, and stick to our game plan was outstanding,” he said. “With the help of Brittney (Neu), our coach, who is really good at breaking down film, we had very explicit game plans for our last four or five matches, and these girls stuck to it like you wouldn’t believe.”

“Usually at the end of the season, you get ecstatic because you win, but you get that sorrow because it’s over. What’s pretty cool is our three seniors, Tamlyn, Abby and Brooklyn, are all going to play college volleyball.”

Tamlyn Kretschmer, who came off the bench, will play for Carroll University.

Koenen will play for Division 1 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Brooklyn Vandehei will play for Kaiser University in Florida.


A proud community with a bright future

Lynch closed by joking about the talent he saw in the crowd, emphasizing the strong pipeline of volleyball players in the community.

“Another pretty exciting thing is how many future Demons I see out there right now,” he said. “I see a lot of freshmen, sophomores, eighth, sixth, seventh, fifth, fourth-graders out there, and hopefully I can make it that long.”

“Twenty-nine years coaching the squad, and 30 years teaching in Burlington. A special thank you to you guys for coming out and supporting us all season. Go Demons!”

Finally, Hefty took it home with some perspective.

She spoke at a special pep assembly at BHS Monday morning, and finished with a moving speech Monday night.

“With all that Burlington went through this year, something like this just lifts everybody up, and I thank you very much for doing this,” she said.

In her proclamation, Hefty lauded the fact it’s the Demons’ third title this decade.

“Unbelievable,” she screamed. “I can’t believe it. I didn’t realize you did that.”

“Thanks to the coaches and all the families that have gone through this. You’ve always supported your kids.”