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Prep boys volleyball: A look at the Big Eight Conference’s teams

August 24, 2018

COACHES’ PICKS

1, Middleton; 2, Madison Memorial; 3, Madison West.

THINGS TO WATCH

Madison Edgewood joins the fold: The Crusaders became the 58th WIAA boys volleyball program when they joined the ranks, along with Menomonee Falls, in March. “We have a lot of kids who played volleyball in middle school in the MAISL (Madison Area Independent Sports League),” head coach Karl Hubbard said. “We just need to get them back in the gym and get the rust off them.”

Can anyone catch the Cardinals? Despite returning only two starters, Middleton is the unanimous pick to win the Big Eight Conference title again this season. The Cardinals have not dropped a conference match since 2011 and have gone undefeated in conference play in nine of the last 10 seasons.

A new tradition: With the addition of Madison Edgewood, Madison will hold its first City Tournament on Thursday, Aug. 30, at Memorial. The round-robin event will feature Memorial, Edgewood, East, La Follette and West.

Chase for 400: Sitting at 377 wins, Middleton head coach Ben White is likely to reach 400 for his storied career at some point this season. The conference favorites have won at least 23 matches every year since 2011.

Elusive win at state: It’s been a decade since a Madison area boys volleyball team has won at the WIAA state tournament, when Middleton defeated Wauwatosa East in a quarterfinal match. With interest and participation around the city growing, that streak could soon come to an end.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wallace Schmotzer, jr., Madison Edgewood: A 6-foot, 5-inch middle blocker, Schmotzer will play a key role as the Crusaders begin to build their program. “He’s got a great vertical and is very quick laterally,” Hubbard said.

Sam Heiman, sr., Madison East: A first-team all-conference selection, Heiman is considered to be one of the favorites for Big Eight Conference Player of the Year honors after totaling 301 kills last season.

Eagan Peters-Michaud, sr., Middleton: The top returning player for the defending conference champions, Peters-Michaud recorded 287 kills and 165 digs as an outside hitter last year. He’s 304 kills away from the school record.

Jack Krumbach, sr., Madison Memorial: Krumbach, an Xavier University commit in baseball, returns at outside hitter after earning first-team all-conference honors for the second-place Spartans.

Jaden Weiss, sr., Madison West: An honorable mention pick last season and one of the most experienced players on the team, Weiss will be relied upon offensively in the middle by the young Regents squad.

CONFERENCE PREVIEWS

After struggling to establish itself as a competitive program, Madison East believes it is now in a position where it can compete with anyone on a nightly basis. Senior Sam Heiman, a first-team all-conference selection, will be tasked with leading the Purgolders. Senior setter Carson Tomony will play a key role in partnering with Heinen. Eli Herr, who sprained his MCL before last season and was never fully healthy, and twins Jack Hussin and Jesse Hussin are gifted athletes who should round out a strong core for East.

In its first year as a boys volleyball program, Madison Edgewood is likely to experience some growing pains with a roster that, for the most part, hasn’t played in a competitive environment since middle school. “To be successful, we need players to be patient with themselves and their teammates in practice and matches,” Hubbard said. Chase Korb, a 6-0 sophomore, is expected to be one of the team’s top players after playing club volleyball while 6-5 junior Wallace Schmotzer will attempt to use his height and vertical to thrive in the middle blocker role.

Madison Memorial returns a good amount of established talent for head coach Steve Collins. After finishing in second-place in the Big Eight last season, Jack Krumbach, a first-team all-conference pick, Colin Kennedy, a second-team selection, and Josh Barth, honorable mention, will look to build on last year for the Spartans. Overall, Memorial has four starters and seven letterwinners returning.

Former Oregon girls volleyball coach Jaime Vareka takes over at Madison West after serving as an assistant for former coach Aaron Blom. Outside hitter Wes Jekel and middles Jaden Weiss and David Hart bring experience to a young Regents squad that will call up a number of players from last year’s undefeated junior varsity team. “(We) graduated nine seniors last year, so we will have a very young, but motivated team,” Vareka said. “There are a lot of players excited about the opportunity to compete and win at a higher level.”

Middleton replaces a lot of talent from last year’s team that advanced to the state quarterfinals and won the conference title for the 11th time in the last 12 years. Eagan Peters-Michaud and Sam Dettmann are the two returning starters for the Cardinals, who will be younger than usual. “We continue to build our program through our foundation of great numbers of younger athletes and we will look to continue to reload,” coach Ben White said. Dylan Griffith, Owen Engling and Parker Van Buren will step into the starting lineup after gaining experience off the bench last year.

Entering its second year as a co-op, Fort Atkinson/Cambridge is hoping that the experience and chemistry gained from the first season of the partnership will help it continue to move in the right direction. Junior outside hitter Kraymer Gladem returns to lead the offense after being an honorable mention pick. Juniors Patrick Yoder and Caleb Haffelder will lead the middle attack, while senior Keegan Talbott will serve as the primary setter. “Fort has a small team, but will be stronger than last year,” head coach Manson Morris said.

After a down year in 2017, Madison La Follette hopes to speed up the rebuilding process this season. Prior to last year’s sixth-place finish, the Lancers had finished in the conference’s top four each of the previous three seasons.

With a young roster last season, Beloit Memorial struggled to remain competitive at times. The Purple Knights will look to utilize that experience moving forward to eventually try to compete with the upper echelon of the conference.

KEY DATES

Thursday, Aug. 30: Madison City Meet at Madison Memorial. The first city meet will be composed of all five Madison schools.

Thursday, Sept. 6: Madison West at Middleton. Two of the top three projected teams in the Big Eight battle it out. Middleton will have a chance to show that they are still the team to beat with an early statement.

Thursday, Sept. 13: Middleton at Madison Memorial. With a strong group of returning players, Madison Memorial has an opportunity to compete with the Cardinals, who enter the season on a 63-match conference winning streak.

Saturday, Sept. 29: Middleton Invitational. Middleton will host a tournament consisting of some of the best boys volleyball teams the state has to offer. Along with Middleton, 2017 state qualifiers Kaukauna, Brookfield East, Germantown, Muskego, Wales Kettle Moraine and defending champion Milwaukee Marquette will compete.

Saturday, Oct. 13: Beloit Memorial Invitational. The Purple Knights host a 14-team invitational consisting of three Big Eight schools (Beloit Memorial, La Follette, West) and a number of other top teams from around Wisconsin.

Saturday, Oct. 20: Big Eight Conference Tournament at Madison La Follette, 8:30 a.m.

WIAA PLAYOFFS

Friday, Oct. 26: Regionals.

Tuesday, Oct. 30 and Thursday, Nov. 1: Sectionals.

Friday-Saturday, Nov. 9-10: State tournament.

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