Girls spikers have high hopes

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton’s Jada Cerniglia was named honorable-mention all-conference last year./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Maddie Vogel was hired as Middleton’s girls volleyball coach last May.

Since then, Vogel and the Cardinals have experienced a ridiculous blend of uncertainty, doubt and questions centered around if they’d have a season.

Last week, Vogel and her team got into the gym for the first time, and it’s not a stretch to say it was glorious.

“Getting back into the gym has been surreal,” Vogel said. “We have waited so long for this moment, so to finally be back in action feels incredible. Things have been going well so far. I think everyone is just so excited to be back in the gym so we have been able to maintain a high level of energy throughout this first week of practice.”

The Cardinals’ season typically runs in the fall. Due to COVID-19, though, the WIAA gave teams the option of postponing fall sports to the spring, and Middleton elected to do just that.

Vogel and the Cardinals now understand that this season will be a year like no other.

Roughly 75% of the state’s teams played volleyball last fall, meaning there won’t be nearly as many scheduling options for Vogel and the Cardinals. Middleton is only scheduling dual meets, meaning no invitationals. And the Cardinals will wear masks.

While all of those are an inconvenience, no one in Middleton’s camp is complaining.

“Crazy is an understatement,” Vogel said of the past several months. “We went through about a million different iterations of planning for this season, so it is a relief to finally have a plan being put into action.

“On the bright side, moving forward I'm not sure that much will be able to phase me! While it's been a crazy year, it has provided tons of growth in terms of mental resilience, which is a vital skill for any high-level athlete. I believe that my athletes will come out even stronger than they already are on the other side of all of this!”

Middleton returns three all-conference-players from the fall of 2019.

Sophomore outside hitter Jordan LaScala was named first-team all-league, while senior libero Jada Cerniglia and sophomore setter Evin Jordee were all named honorable mention all-conference.

LaScala played in all 120 sets in 2019 and led the Cardinals in kills (361) and receptions (398). LaScala was second with a .331 hitting percentage, second in digs (217) and third in aces (43).

Cerniglia led Middleton with 54 aces and 317 digs. She was also second on the team with 362 receptions. 

Jordee led the Cardinals with 520 assists and was second on the team with 51 aces. She was also fourth in kills (77) and fourth in digs (174).

Vogel will also rely heavily on a seven-person senior class that includes Olivia Underwood, Christa Klais, Katie Shaffer, Jordan Dettman, McKenzie Johns, Grace Ward, and Cerniglia.

“I would say without a doubt that all of our senior returnees have really stepped up to the plate, not just in terms of playing but also in terms of setting a superb example of how to be a good teammate,” Vogel said. “They have all maintained positive attitudes despite the irregularity of this season, and have exhibited a willingness to lead by example and to consistently be ready to adapt to whatever changes this year will deliver.

“While their individual contributions to the team will present in different ways, they will all be instrumental in setting the tone for our program this season.”

Junior outside hitter Tayva Johnson will be counted on heavily. And sophomore Sierra Pertzborn figures to have a large role herself.

Due to COVID restrictions, Middleton wasn’t able to conduct standard tryouts this season. So the Cardinals were able to keep 20 girls in their varsity cohort.

“This will allow for a larger number of players to get a ton of good reps and experience in both matches and practices,” Vogel said. “And I am excited for the prospect of giving these players a positive experience following such a difficult year.”

Vogel has had success at every level of her volleyball life.

Vogel played at Capital Volleyball Academy in both middle and high school. Vogel attended Verona High School, where she was a two-time all-Big Eight Conference performer and helped the Wildcats reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament during her sophomore season in 2011.

Vogel coached the freshmen at Madison Edgewood High School in 2016 and spent three seasons in that role. She became Middleton’s JV coach in 2019 and now hopes to lead the Cardinals to big things — beginning now.

“Despite the strange nature of this season, my expectations remain high for this group of girls,” Vogel said. “While many schools have already played, we will still face solid competition against teams like Verona and Sun Prairie, for example. I am confident that despite the limited opponents, we will still be challenged and have plenty of opportunities for growth as both individual players, and the program as a whole.

“We still do not know exactly what post-season will look like, so we are embracing every opportunity to play that we are given! So much is out of our control right now, so my focus is on everything within our control, and making our program the best it can possibly be.”

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