from today's Waukesha Freeman -
STATE BOYS VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
WAUKESHA – Taylor Braun has been close before.
A 2008 graduate of Catholic Memorial High School, Braun was a member of four state-qualifying boys volleyball teams. That also meant Braun was a member of three state runner- up teams, as the Crusaders finished second in 2004, 2006 and 2007 while Braun was a member of the team.
Now in his first year as head coach at CMH, Braun will lead his team to this weekend’s WIAA state tournament at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
“For me, I’ve learned all those lessons of what those teams I was on did wrong,” Braun said. “I’m making a conscious effort to make sure we don’t make those mistakes again.
“My assistant, Erik Neuens, was a setter on two of those teams, so we’ve both been there and know what we need to do well to take it to the next level. Our guys know the history pretty well, so they trust in what we’re telling them.”
This is the fourth straight trip to state for CMH. The Crusaders won the title in 2010 but lost in the first round the next two years.
“Last year they were excited to make it to state,”Braun said. “Getting bounced in the first round, nobody likes that because your state experience is held to a few hours.
“They’re excited to get back out on the court and make it past Friday night. That’s been a huge motivator.”
While CMH has been a regular competitor at state, Brookfield East will make its first trip since 2000. The Spartans, who finished third in the Greater Metro Conference, have no seniors on this year’s roster.
“It’s a very young group,” East coach Tim Owen said. “Six of this year’s guys played last year. They didn’t play all the way around, but we made it to the sectional last year and six of this year’s guys who played in that returned this year.
“Even though we’re young, you could see potential was there. A lot have just made great improvements from a year ago and even great improvements from a couple of months ago when we started.”
East will play Kaukauna in the quarterfinal round at 5 p.m. Friday. CMH will play Racine Horlick in a 7:45 p.m. quarterfinal. Semifinals are at noon Saturday, and the championship match is at 5:30 p.m.
Memorial, which beat Horlick in a midseason tournament, began the season with senior setter Paul Heyrman recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Senior Jon Rymer moved from rightside hitter to setter, and now Memorial is rotating the two at setter. Rymer will hit while rotating into the front row, and he sets while playing the back row.
“It definitely helps having Paul just on the court. Even though he’s not at 100 percent, it is a huge boost for the team mentally,” Braun said. “Last year Paul was such a leader for this team. For him to go down, I know the guys were bummed.
“Having Jon step into that setter role and holding the team over until Paul was able to come back was fantastic. For someone who’s never set in his life and also in his senior year, to tell him he’s not hitting but setting instead is not normal. It was huge the way he took it in stride.”
Senior Chandler North leads Memorial with 261 kills, and junior Danny Brozynski had 241. Rymer has 725 assists, and senior Dylan Allen has 256 digs.
Junior Dalen Instenes leads Horlick with 328 kills, and junior Jake Romano has 165 kills and 567 assists.
“They have two solid swingers, one who sets in the back row and hits from the front,” Braun said of Horlick. “They’re scrappy and don’t let a lot of balls drop. That can get frustrating for opposing teams.”
Junior Matt Klassen leads Brookfield East with 241 kills, junior Jared Wilgus has 437 assists, and junior Adam Wessel has 193 digs.
“Our second tournament of the year, we lost to Catholic Memorial in the semifinals,” Owen said. “You could see that the pieces were there and the intangibles were there. It’s a tight group, a close group who are all friends off the court. A lot of times there are cliques, but there isn’t any in this team.”
Junior Carter Belling has 527 kills for Kaukauna, and senior Austin Oettinger has 1,011 assists.
“We’ve seen them at tournaments, but we haven’t played against them,” Owen said of the Ghosts. “When you get to this point, they’re all good teams and Kaukauna is no exception.
“It should be a tough test Friday night. The guys are excited for the opportunity.”