MILWAUKEE — This was supposed to be the year for the Middleton boys volleyball team.
After five consecutive one-and-done trips to the WIAA state tournament, the Cardinals returned to Wisconsin Lutheran College on Friday night with the highest state seeding in program history (No. 3) and a matchup with a Kenosha Indian Trail team the Cardinals knocked off last month, in their own tournament.
Instead, this trip ended with the same feeling of disappointment. The Cardinals’ season came to an end in a five-set quarterfinal loss to the Hawks, 25-22, 23-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-9.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t get over this hump,” said Middleton coach Ben White, whose team finished 35-6. “We thought we were prepared. Indian Trail didn’t do anything we didn’t know they were going to do.
“We’d talked about how big they were and how they were going to block us ... They did everything we thought they would do. Indian Trail executed really, really well — and we made a lot of silly mistakes.”
Junior outside hitter Parker Van Buren recorded 22 kills but hit for a percentage of just .125, well below his season mark of .395 — thanks in large part to a strong showing by the Hawks’ defense. Middleton entered with a .279 hitting percentage but was held to a .122 as Indian Trail (35-3) totaled nine blocks.
“Their blocking improved so much over the last two games compared to the first three,” Van Buren said. “Their blocking is what killed us.”
The Cardinals dropped the opening set 25-22 but took the next two by identical 25-23 scores and were in a position to close out the match late in the fourth when they wiped out a 20-17 deficit with a 4-0 rally.
But Indian Trail recovered with three consecutive points, including one on an attack error by Van Buren, and took a 24-23 lead when Nick Stachura set up Carson Bakkala’s kill. The Hawks closed out the set on a pair of errors by Van Buren.
In the winner-take-all fifth set, the Hawks took control with a 6-0 run and the Cardinals never recovered.
“A lot of frustration started to show,” White said. “Everybody was trying to press and do too much. That was probably the first time all year that we looked at each other, had a little yelling. That was the first time this year that I saw a little crack in the armor.”
Van Buren admitted it wasn’t the Cardinals’ best moment.
“It was mostly us,” Van Buren said. “I’ve seen our team play a lot better than we did tonight and I’ve seen them play a lot worse. We came down here with a lot of confidence. It’s very frustrating.”
Kenosha Indian Trail 25 23 23 26 15
Middleton 22 25 25 24 9
LEADERS — Kills: KIT 56 (Antos 18, Klimisch 18, Shore 9, Bakkala 6); M 59 (Van Buren 22, Peters-Michaud 16, Engling 12, Dettman 7). Assists: KIT 52 (Stachura 47); M 52 (Ballweg 46). Aces: KIT 6 (Antos 3, Stachura 3); M 3 (Griffith 2). Digs: KIT 61 (Skalbeck 19, Stachura 12, Shore 10); M 69 (Griffith 17, Peters-Michaud 16, Stormer 12, Ballweg 12). Blocks: KIT 13 (Rivera 5.5, Klimisch 3, Stachura 4); M 7 (McDonough 2, Dettman 1.5, Engling 1.5).