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WIAA boys volleyball photo: Andrew and Mattie LePage celebrate a trip to the state tournament

Middleton senior Setter Andrew Lepage and his brother, Mattie, show off the WIAA sectional championship plaque the Cardinals earned on Thursday to lock in their fifth consecutive WIAA state tournament trip. Mattie Lepage has served all season as a team manager for the Cardinals.

Senior setter Andrew Lepage does just about everything for the Middleton boys volleyball team.

His coach says he’s like a quarterback and point guard rolled into one.

But the two-time, first-team All-Big Eight Conference honoree isn’t the only Lepage making a difference for the Cardinals as they gear up for their fifth consecutive appearance in the WIAA state tournament.

Andrew’s younger brother, Mattie Lepage, has spent the past three years as a manager for the Cardinals. Mattie, born with Down Syndrome, has served as an inspiration — not only for Andrew, but for the entire program.

“From Day One, having Mattie there has never distracted Andrew,” Middleton coach Ben White said. “I think Andrew treats Mattie like one of the guys, like everyone else, but when Andrew needs to be a brother, he’s a brother. Mattie and Andrew have really been able to balance that relationship.”

Andrew Lepage entered his senior year with his name already etched into the Cardinals’ record book as the career assists leader. Tonight, he’ll lead the Cardinals (33-6) into a quarterfinal match against Kaukauna (27-6) at the Wisconsin Lutheran College Rex Center in Milwaukee — and Mattie will be on the bench, providing support.

“Prior to the start of Mattie’s freshman year, his parents reached out to me and just wanted to do something to get him involved at the high school to make him feel more comfortable,” White said.

For Andrew, having his brother on the team over the past three years has been a new and different experience, but one that has been made easier by the teammates that have formed a brotherhood throughout their time together.

“The best part about it is that he loves volleyball and wants to be there,” Andrew Lepage said. “It makes it easier because I don’t really have to watch him. He just wants to help everyone, and my team has been really accepting of it and enjoy having him around.

“The program itself, we are all really a family. Mattie gets the most excited when things happen on the court. He has his own handshake with some people, including Thomas (Robson), so he’s definitely become a part of that brotherhood.”

During a couple of the team’s Saturday tournaments this fall, there were times when White was abandoned by the rest of his coaching staff — busy coaching the JV and freshman teams — and was alone on the bench, save for Mattie and the other student manager, Anthony Fobes.

But that wasn’t an issue, thanks to Mattie.

“Mattie knows once in a while, if I get a little frustrated or get worked up, he will literally put his hand on my shoulder and smile, and it always puts things back in perspective for me,” White said. “He has pretty good timing on when to calm Coach down.”

According to White, one of his favorite parts of having Mattie on the team is watching the relationship between the two brothers.

“They have a special bond, but I also think they’ve become closer through volleyball,” White said. “It’s given them a common ground and something to share.”

Something else the Lepage brothers get to share is another conference championship — the 11th in the past 12 years for the Cardinals.

“It’s been a fun ride,” Andrew said. “As a team, we are all kind of molded together by now. We know our roles and now that state is upon us, we know that we just have to keep doing what we’ve been doing all year.”

Mostly, what the Middleton team has been doing is winning. The Cardinals opened the season with 20 consecutive wins. They have been battle-tested by playing a few teams that will join them at state — including a victory over Kaukauna during their own Cardinal Invitational.

“We’ve lost in the (state) quarterfinals the last four years, so for us, our goal is to be playing on the last day of the season,” White said.

Andrew has continued to do his part to make that dream a reality, adding to his school record and boosting his career assist total beyond 2,000.

“Andrew carries himself with so much maturity and level-headedness,” White said. “To have that as your setter, as the quarterback of your team, is more than anything I could ask for as a coach.”

In addition, he is second on the team with 222 digs, and tied for first with Robson with 31 service aces.

Yet, his statistics only tell part of his story.

“It’s kind of funny,” Andrew said. “Mattie is going to end his career with more varsity letters then I’ll have.”

And what would it be like to hold a state championship trophy with Mattie on Saturday evening?

“That would be crazy. If that could happen, that would be a really great moment. I know he would enjoy it a lot,” Andrew said.