Boys spikers knock off mighty Marquette

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Matt Ballweg and Middleton's boys volleyball team knocked off MIlwaukee Marquette on Sept. 18./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

MILWAUKEE — Eight seniors had graduated from the winningest boys’ volleyball team in Middleton history.

Sure, the newcomers were talented. But Cardinals senior outside hitter Eagan Peters-Michaud figured a dropoff this fall was only natural.

“When the eight seniors left, we were kind of wondering how this would go,” Peters-Michaud said. “I kind of had more negative thoughts.”

Not anymore.

Middleton has been one of the state’s greatest surprises. And the Cardinals notched one of their biggest wins of the Ben White-era on Sept. 18.

Middleton went into Milwaukee Marquette High School — home of the defending state champions and a school that has won nine state titles since 2002 — and took it to the host Hilltoppers. Middleton overcame a rough second set and toppled Marquette, 25-21, 16-25, 25-20, 25-21.

Middleton also posted wins at the JV and freshman levels in what was a memorable night for the program.

“It will be a pretty happy bus on the way home,” White said.

With good reason.

Junior outside hitter Parker Van Buren had 15 kills, while Peters-Michaud had a sensational all-around performance with 11 kills, 10 digs, three blocks and two aces. Senior middle hitter Owen Engling had nine kills, while senior setter Matt Ballweg had 39 assists and two blocks. Senior libero Dylan Griffith had 16 digs and junior defensive specialist Matthew Stormer added two aces.

“It’s so great,” Van Buren said. “This means a lot to us. They’re a great team and we’re so happy to have played them and to have beat them.”

Peters-Michaud agreed.

“I think this gives us a lot of confidence,” he said. “I think this opens up the state’s eyes about what we have and what we can do this year.”

Middleton has certainly opened Marquette’s eyes, defeating the Hilltoppers for the second time in September.

The Cardinals’ hitting percentage of .202 wasn’t jaw-dropping. But Middleton played terrific defense and finished with 42 digs, 45 kills, eight blocks and five aces.

“I really feel like we did a better job serving against them as we were able to attack certain zones to try to keep them out of system,” White said. 

Marquette went on an early 6-0 run in the first set and took an 8-5 lead. But the Cardinals forged an 8-8 tie, and there were five ties and three lead changes the rest of the way.

Middleton was clinging to a 22-21 lead when it regained a sideout following a Van Buren kill. With Van Buren then serving, Engling had a tip kill for a point to make it 24-21, then Peters-Michaud hammered home a kill on set point.

“Getting that first set was big,” Peters-Michaud said.

The second set was a much different story as the host Hilltoppers raced out to leads of 3-0 and 14-7 and rolled to a 25-16 win.

Between sets, White — who grew up watching Brett Favre lead the Green Bay Packers — used a story from the ‘Gunslinger’ to help motivate his team.

“Coach told us a Brett Favre story where he said he never actually felt like was playing well until he got sacked,” Van Buren said. “And that’s what pushed it over for me, at least. That really made me really want to beat them.”

Peters-Michaud felt the same way.

“Coach told us that Brett Favre once said, ‘I’m not in the game until I get sacked and punched in the face,’ ” said Peters Michaud, who has a 37-inch vertical leap. “And you guys just got punched in the face.”

Boy, did Middleton punch back.

The third set featured six early ties and Middleton was clinging to a 17-16 lead following consecutive kills from Marquette senior outside hitter Joe Destefanis. But a Peters-Michaud kill gave Middleton a sideout, then Peters-Michaud rolled off three straight service points — including two aces — as the Cardinals’ lead jumped to 21-16.

Marquette never crept closer than four points the rest of the way and Middleton grabbed a 2-1 lead.

“I was so excited to see how they responded, because I didn’t know how they’d respond,” White said. “And to see how they responded, it was just like, ‘Let’s go. Let’s fight.’ I’ve had teams in past years that might have thought they didn’t belong on this court. But these guys never thought that. It was great to see.”

Middleton never backed down either.

The fourth set turned at the midway point when Middleton rolled off four straight points to take a 17-14 lead. Sam Dettman had a huge block kill to give the Cardinals a sideout, then sophomore Nick Stott rolled off three consecutive service points as Middleton took control.

Marquette closed within one point on three occasions, but never could pull even. The Cardinals then finished the match on a 5-2 run that included kills from Dettman and Peters-Michaud and a tip kill from Ballweg.

Just like that, mighty Marquette had been slayed and Middleton let the rest of the state know this could be its year.

“I’ve been blessed with a good program and good athletes,” White said. “But the past couple of years we’ve really won with defense, and to use the generic term, we’ve kind of nickel and dimed people. And this year is different because we show up and we’re the team with the power. So that’s the big difference.”

It sure is.

Van Buren has emerged as a dominant force to team with Peters-Michaud on the outside. Dettman and Engling form a pair of dangerous middles.

Ballweg is as steady of a setter as you’ll find. And there’s depth, talent and skill up and down the roster.

Add it all up and Middleton is a legitimate state title contender.

“I’m not going to hide from that and I don’t think the kids are going to hide from it,” White said. “Our goal is we should be playing in the final day and go from there. This team has big aspirations.”

Which is something Marquette found out the hard way.


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