Burlington’s Morgan Klein attempts to get a spike through Union Grove defenders Rylee Deuel (9) and Karlee Lois (14) during Thursday’s WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal at the Resch Center in Green Bay (Jason Arndt/Standard Press).

After scare against Broncos, Demons play top-seeded Arrowhead Friday

By Jason Arndt

Union Grove took advantage of Burlington’s early nerves to take two of the first three sets in Thursday’s WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinal at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

But the fourth-seeded Demons regrouped to come away with a tightly contested five-set win, 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 25-12, 15-10, and advanced to Friday’s state semifinal against top-seeded Arrowhead (38-3) with opening serve set for 7:30 p.m.

Burlington coach Teri Little admits her team began the quarterfinal tight, but after the third set, which went 25-21 in favor of Union Grove, the Demons found their rhythm in sets four and five.

“I never felt we relaxed. Our posture was tight. Our ball control wasn’t quite as crisp as we would like it to be,” said Little, whose team carries a 38-4 record into Friday’s match.

“For us, it was about relaxing and enjoying the moment rather than feeling the pressure of ‘Oh my Gosh, we got to win this.”

The Demons win, however, abruptly ends Union Grove’s first state appearance since 1985.

For Union Grove, which concludes it season 41-6, head coach Annie Sireno said her squad did what they could against defending champion Burlington.

“It didn’t end the way that we wanted it to. I think that our girls definitely fought hard. We have played them a couple of times throughout the season,” said Sireno, whose Broncos were the only Southern Lakes Conference opponent to take one set from Burlington in two meetings.

“Overall, our season was awesome. We were very successful and played really well together as a team. We just had a great season.”

Senior setter Karlee Lois believes her team’s performance against Burlington on Thursday was the best of the season.

Lois, who noted the Broncos strong start Thursday, acknowledged Union Grove could not maintain the momentum.

“We played some of our best volleyball when we play Burlington, especially tonight,” said Lois, who accounted for 37 assists along with 18 digs. “We were playing the best we have played this season and it just fell apart at the end and we couldn’t maintain playing the same level.”

Hitters go head-to-head
Union Grove’s Olivia Dir and Emily Alan, of Burlington, nearly answered each other at the net.

Dir, a 5-10 senior outside hitter, notched a game-high 20 kills while adding 17 digs.

“She had great night. That is the best we have seen her play and I am just impressed at the way were able to keep pressure and eventually figure out ways to stop her, or at least slow her down,” said Little, in describing how challenging Dir played against her Demons.

Alan, meanwhile, responded with a team-leading 19 kills while adding five block assists for the Demons.

Little said Alan’s performance did not come as a surprise because of her on-court awareness and ability to work around opposing team strategies.

“We know what she is capable of and she is extremely intelligent out there,” Little said. “Teams know about her. They key in on her and she still finds ways like that to get the job done.”

The Demons received offensive reinforcements from Morgan Klein (18 kills) and Mackenzie Leach (14 kills, 14 digs).

Defensively, for the Broncos, seniors Kelsey Henderson (18 digs), Lois, Dir, and Bailey Berger (13 digs) were the leading contributors.

Experience critical
Alan, meanwhile, said experience played a key role in Thursday’s victory.

The Demons’ 6-0 middle blocker, along with several teammates, have been on the state stage before.

“I felt like we had more of an advantage over Union Grove because we have been here before and we played on these courts before,” she said.

Burlington senior setter Kaley Blake, who finished with a game-high 48 assists and contributed 16 digs, agreed with Alan.

“We were definitely more used to it than them, we know how to adjust more easily,” she said.

The Demons’ defense received a team-leading 23 digs from junior Samantha Naber.

See the Nov. 14 Standard Press and Nov. 15 Westine Report editions for the full story.