Burlington volleyball preview

 

Abby Koenen goes up for a slam last year. While the 2017 All-Area player of the year now plays for UW-Milwaukee, everyone else in this photo is back for the Demons, and that’s a good thing for Burlington. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

Over the summer, longtime Burlington High School volleyball coach Teri Leach changed her name to Teri Little after getting married, but that may be the only thing that’s changed for the defending Division 1 state champion Demons.

Sure, star players like 2017 Southern Lakes Newspapers All-Area Player of the Year Abby Koenen and Brooklyn Vandehei are playing college volleyball, along with Tamlyn Kretschmer, but 80 percent of the team is back and the goal remains the same – win it all.

Little joked that her trio of graduates text her occasionally to complain how sore they are from practice.

With a culture that includes not only winning but having fun, being dedicated and learning to play multiple positions ingratiated into young Burlington girls as early as age 5, it’s easy to see why this bunch could return to Green Bay, the place where it defeated Neenah in five games to capture the school’s third state crown in seven years back in November.

“The state title doesn’t change anything,” said Little, now in her 18th season, along with co-head coach Dan Lynch. “These girls came in raring and ready to go.”

“Our summer is spent training youth, which allows up to continue having success. Dan and I spend the majority of the time in the gym with little girls, kindergartners through eighth-graders, at Karcher. It’s three days a week through most of the summer.”

Little said a group of high school girls showed up and helped out with the little kids to give back.

“It’s back to business as usual,” Little added. “It’s exciting because the state title is a goal. You don’t take it for granted, because you know how hard it is to get it. We have three, which seems like a lot. A different match goes a different way, and you don’t get it.”

“For now, we try to focus on short-term goals, finding an identity, what can get better, what can we do to improve weaknesses, that’s we worked on last week.”

Little said the girls put the high expectations on themselves, and the seniors already are leading like last year’s group of seniors.

For 2018, senior Maddie Berezowitz and junior Kaley Blake will be team captains.

 

Three D1 recruits

It’s another loaded team of talent, with sophomore Sam Naber (Marquette), Blake (UW-Milwaukee) and Berezowitz (University of Kentucky) committed to play D1 college volleyball.

Other returners include Camryn Lukenbill, who is currently battling a herniated disc injury and may miss significant time, Emily Alan, Laren Baldowsky, Cayla Gutche, Mackenzie Leach, Coley Haggard, Lexi Hill, Grace Peyron and Amanda Viel.

“We ran a different lineup probably every set of our scrimmage, and we were very pleased with our results,” Little said.

“We have to look at what works for us. We have a lot of depth. Everyone from last year is a year better. They’ve all made big strides.”

Most of the players are back row players, but they are needed to hit in the front row for the high school season. Therefore, the team defense could be elite, according to Little.

Little said it won’t be easy to replace Koenen, who dominated offensively.

Haggard, Berezowitz, Leach and freshman Morgan Klein should be effective outside hitters.

Along with Klein, newcomers include senior Jordan Huisinga, sophomore Ally Meyerhofer and junior Claire Walby.

“I coached a lot of these girls on a club team when they were 8, 9, 10 years old, so they’re ready for varsity,” Little said. “The athletes set the tone very quickly in practice, and they want to train and work hard.”

“We have a bunch of goal-oriented players in the program. They are strong students in the classroom, and they’re leaders in so many things they’re a part of. It’s not a hard buy-in.”

Little said Westosha Central should provide the biggest challenge in the Southern Lakes Conference, where the Demons are defending champs.

Also, Union Grove returns a lot of talent, including a dynamic outside hitter.

“We’ll see everybody Friday and Saturday for the Joust,” Little said.

While the season tips off this weekend at the prestigious Joust at Homestead, one of the state’s best tournaments, right now Little is just happy to be back with her girls.

“I’m happy to be back in the gym with them,” she said. “They bring enthusiasm, and they work hard.”

 

Captains ready for challenge

Blake and Berezowitz said Tuesday at BHS they are past the state title, especially after a summer of club volleyball all over the Midwest.

“It’s a new season, last season is kind of over,” Blake said about the state title.

Berezowitz is fresh off a run to the state title game in softball, so she stays at a high level of competition in multiple sports.

“I’ve been to state all three years of volleyball, so a fourth year would be pretty spectacular,” Berezowitz said.

Blake, who will get to set up kills for Koenen at UWM, said the girls have been working hard in open gyms all summer at the high school.

“We love open gyms,” Blake said.

“It was the highlight of our summer,” Berezowitz said. “We have a really gritty team, with strong defense. We have about 10 liberos on the team.”

The captains are excited about the evolution of this fall’s sophomores, along with the height and athleticism of Klein.

“In the beginning, we’re always shaky, because injuries are going on, but state is the best part of the year, and not winning would be a disappointment,” Blake said. “We get strong at the end of the season.”

“A lot of us are sore right now, but we always say to make it good in November,” Berezowitz added.

Blake and Berezowitz both said they are volleyball “nerds,” where if they’re not playing, they’re running camps or coach.

“It’s my life,” Blake said.

Life just so happens to get real this weekend at the Joust, which will features the best teams in Wisconsin.

No stranger to the limelight and big matches, though, the defending champs will most likely be ready as soon as that first serve clears the net.

 

Schedule

(HOME IN CAPS)

August – 30: UNION GROVE. September – 1: at Muskego Invite. 6: WILMOT. 8: at West Allis Hale Invite. 11: at Delavan-Darien. 13: RACINE CASE. 18: at Elkhorn. 21-22: Sprawl at West Bend East High School. 25: LAKE GENEVA BADGER. October – 2: WATERFORD. 4: at Muskego. 9: at Westosha Central. 13: Southern Lakes Conference meet at Waterford.

 

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