By Jennifer Eisenbart
There are first times for everything, or so the saying goes.
Needless to say, though, cramping for the first time ever isn’t something you want to have happen in the WIAA state championship match.
BHS libero Garrett Schilling found that out the hard way Saturday night, as the Demons were tied at a set apiece in the state title game against North when he dove to the floor for a dig – and came up with cramps in both legs.
“He’s never cramped up before, ever,” said coach Tim Gesteland. “He said, ‘it really hurts.’ I’m like, ‘yeah, it does.’”
It was more than the physical pain, though, for the Demons, as Schilling – a first-team All-State selection as a libero – managed to play just two more points the entire night, and the Demons came up short of the state title, falling 25-23, 25-27, 25-18, 25-12 to North at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
North finished with an undefeated season, while BHS finished 35-5 – with three of those losses to North.
All season long, Burlington knocked on the door when it came to beating North, but came up just short in a pair of losses in tournaments to the Lightning, losing four games by a total of nine points.
It drew the praise of North head coach Mike Maass, who was thrilled to get the match-up between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the state in the championship.
“I told Tim before the match, they were the best team we’ve played all year long,” Maass said. “We’ve been fortunate to come out on top in all three.”
The state championship match looked like it was going to be an exact repeat of that. While Burlington jumped out to an early lead in set one, North rallied and eventually tied the score.
The Demons called timeout, and moved to set point on a kill by Ben Geiger, but North ran off the next four points for the set.
Coach Gesteland said that, during the break between sets, “I had these guys convinced that they stole that game.”
The Demons went and eked out set two, scoring the last two points of the game on a kill by Nick Bartlett and then a ball-handling error by North.
At that point, coach Gesteland said, “this is going to be a long night.”
Unfortunately for the Demons, the wheels came off in set three when Schilling went down. Trailing 13-10, the Demons couldn’t really get back on track following the lineup switch, and it was more of the same in set four.
“When you have seven or eight starters, it’s hard to replace that,” the coach explained.
All that said, the Demons acquitted themselves admirably. Junior Nolan Rueter finished with 17 kills on 51 attempts, while Bartlett added 14 on 26 – hitting .346 for the match.
North just had too many weapons. Ryan Albers led the Lightning with 20 kills, while Drew Eastman added 13, Peter Dalgleisch 12 and Michael Lukashewich seven. Brandon Miller also had six.
Regardless of the final match, though, coach Gesteland couldn’t have asked for more.
“I told them in the huddle,” he said, “it’s going to be hard to replace them.”
After going 0-3 in three other appearances at state, the Demons’ first goal at the state tournament was just to win the first match.
BHS did exactly that, surviving a hearty push from Catholic Memorial along the way to win 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20.
Coach Gesteland said after the match that his team tried to play a physical game – more of who could pound the ball the hardest – rather than play to its strengths.
As a result, the Demons found themselves down in set three and couldn’t quite rally – something that upset the head coach.
“I told them, ‘get this done in three (sets),’” Gesteland explained. “You don’t want to go four, because four equals five.’”
Still, Burlington survived and moved on. Rueter finished with 17 kills while Biedrzycki added 12, and Zach Gesteland had 32 assists and seven kills. Bartlett added seven kills, three aces and eight digs, while Schilling had a team-best 12 digs.
In the state semifinals, the Demons faced Kettle Moraine – upset winners over Wauwatosa East (the No. 3 seed) in the quarterfinals in five sets.
Coach Gesteland stressed that his team would have to play smarter volleyball against the Laser – another tough, physical team – and the Demons came out and did that, winning 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 25-20.
Tied 20-20 in set one, Burlington rattled off five of the last six points, with Biedrzycki spiking home the ball on set point.
Geiger and Joey Osmolak came up with a huge block on Kettle Moraine’s Adam Martell to clinch set two, but the real test of Burlington’s composure came five points early. The Demons looked like they had an easy point with Kettle Moraine appearing to take four hits on its side of the net, but the refs ruled a touch. BHS didn’t realize it, and let the ball drop on their side of the net.
After a heated debate between officials, BHS captain Zach Gesteland and the coaches, the Lasers were awarded the point, and then tied the score on an ace by Martell.
The Demons called timeout – and then won the last three points of the set.
Kettle Moraine rallied late and won set three, then took an early lead in set four before BHS settled back in, using a long run on Geiger’s serve to get a critical five-point separation.
Rueter finished with a match-best 18 kills, while Biedrzycki added 13, while Zach Gesteland and Bartlett added four each and Joey Osmolak five.
Zach Gesteland also had 34 assists and nine digs, while Schilling had 17 digs and Rueter 11.