Demons earn 4 seed, Toppers 2 games from 1st title in six years

Burlington Demon players hoist their sectional title plaque Saturday after beating Westosha Central. (Earlene Frederick/SLN)

 

Burlington has seen this movie before.

You know, the one where both the Burlington Demons and Catholic Central Hilltoppers make it to the state girls volleyball tournament in the same year.

In fact, the Demons and Toppers hold the distinction of the only two teams from the same community that have won a state championship in the same year.

It happened in 2011 and 2012, and history has a chance to repeat itself this weekend.

On Thursday, the defending state champion Demons (36-5), seeded fourth in the eight-team WIAA Division 1 state tournament, will face unseeded Kimberly (33-10) at 4:30 p.m.

The winner will most likely battle top-seeded Arrowhead (45-6) on Friday.

Seeding a defending state champion that has most of its starters back fourth baffles me, but I’m sure head coach Teri Little and her girls embrace the “underdog” role, if you want to call it that.

When asked if going to state ever gets old (it’s the ninth time for Little), Little didn’t hesitate to say no.

Over in Division 4, Catholic Central (37-7) takes on Newman Catholic (31-12) in a state semifinal at 10 a.m. Friday morning.

Burlington and Catholic Central, along with Division 2 East Troy, are three area squads with legitimate chances to bring home a gold ball.

And much like it always does, anything connected to area volleyball around here tends to trace back to Westosha Central.

 

A premature retirement

Ironically, the Central Falcons can’t figure out how to beat the Burlington girls, losing in last Saturday’s sectional final, while on the boys side, it was an assist from Central that pushed the Toppers over the top this season.

Wayne Schultz, the godfather of Westosha Central boys volleyball and perhaps the person most responsible for a boys Southern Lakes Conference (only in its infancy), retired after more than a decade of leading the Falcon boys last fall.

But when Catholic Central Athletic Director Tom Aldrich came calling and summoned Schultz from retirement, Schultz couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get a team over the hump and return to the state tournament for the first time in four years.

On Saturday in Randolph, Schultz immediately hoisted his grandson after his team’s five-set thrilling victory over No. 1 seed Hilbert.

On Tuesday, I ran into Schultz at the south side Kwik Trip, and he was grateful for the online article (www.myracinecounty.com) about the sectional final victory, and he said several of his girls live in Elkhorn and drive to Burlington every day, including leading hitter Sammie Seib.

Many of his players are Catholic Central legacy students whose parents attended the high school.

Erin Schwenn is the furthest outlier in Lake Villa, Ill.

Schultz, who’s from Paddock Lake, but currently lives in Twin Lakes, runs youth volleyball camps and club teams in the offseason in the Westosha area, and he said some of his Topper girls play club ball for him.

Just before I could further investigate this special team, he said he had to get to practice.

Based on comments Saturday night and today, it’s clear the job isn’t done.

Schultz has led the Lady Toppers to 20 straight wins, but he said the goal is 22, which would mean a state title.

 

Katie Goethal (from left), Hannah Sobbe and Grace Spiegelhoff celebrate the Toppers’ sectional title victory Saturday in Randolph. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Back-to-back again?

BHS’s Little and Dan Lynch return to state for the fifth straight season and ninth time in 10 seasons.

When the Demons won back-to-back gold balls in ’11 and ’12, they featured three Division 1 standouts, Morganne Longoria, Kaysie Shebeneck and Ciara Capezio.

This season, they also feature three Division 1 players, Maddie Berezowitz (Kentucky), Sam Naber (Marquette) and Kaley Blake (UW-Milwaukee).

The current crop is scrappy, relying on its speed and quickness with limited height.

The size and power hitting comes from Camryn Lukenbill, who missed almost the entire season with an injury, Coley Haggard, a powerful outside hitter and Emily Alan, a dominant middle blocker with elite athleticism.

While 2017 All-Area Player of the Year Abby Koenen, a game-changing outside hitter, now shines for UWM, Burlington has made up for her absence with depth, chemistry and aggressive serving.

Burlington is the state’s premiere program, thanks in part to sacrifice and dedication in the offseason from Little and Lynch, who spend entire summers and offseasons coaching girls as young as 5 the fundamentals of the game they love.

Many players pay their knowledge forward, becoming youth coaches or mentors in the offseason.

And with Schultz, the Toppers could be back on top in Division 4.

From 2006 to 2012, the Toppers won five titles in six state appearances.

Schultz, Little and Lynch are all passionate volleyball fanatics, eating, breathing, drinking and sleeping the game.

Retirement couldn’t stop Schultz, who only took a few months to rediscover the itch.

And Little and Lynch are not only co-head coaches, they’re family. Little is Lynch’s niece.

They are both young and are the classic yin and yang with coaching styles.

I don’t see either slowing down any time soon.

In conclusion, it’s a good time to be a girl in the Burlington area, and it’s an even better time if you’re a girl and you like or are interested in volleyball.

Three of the best coaches in the state are in charge of our two high school varsity girls volleyball teams, and it’s no coincidence the calendar has turned to November and both teams are still playing.

 

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