Taking on the reigning WIAA Division 1 state champ Burlington, the Milton volleyball team looked to cause the upset. Despite some strong runs of form during the first and second sets, the Red Hawks fell to the Demons 25-16, 25-18, 25-14 at Oregon High School on Oct. 25.
Oregon came out of the gates quickly, racing to a 6-3 lead. But strong serving from the Red Hawks allowed Milton to fight back to a 7-7 tie.
As state champions teams do, Burlington found a way to break ahead of the Red Hawks with their quick offense and race to a 19-13 lead before claiming the opening set 25-16, taking 10 of the final 13 points.
To start the second, Milton seemed to have erased the end of the opening set from their minds, serving their way to a strong 5-1 lead. The Demons dwindled that lead to 7-6, but the Red Hawks stretched it to 11-9. But by taking 11 of the next 15 points, Burlington showed why they were the top seed in the sectional. Now leading Milton 20-15, the Demons closed out the second set 25-18 to lead the Red Hawks 2-0.
Despite being down to a team that had lost only five matches all season, Milton head coach wasn’t worried.
“I was not worried going into the third game, because I had faith in my team,” he said.
Even with the confidence in his team, the Demons cruised to a strong 7-1 start to the third set.
“When we got down 7-1 to start it, I felt no matter what we would do, it wouldn’t be enough,” Hansen said. “That was the time to just enjoy what we shared together over the year, and for my seniors, to enjoy what we shared the past 5 years.”
Burlington used their quick tempo offense to keep the Red Hawks at bay in the third, racing to an 18-5 lead before closing out the set 25-14 to advance.
Heading into the match, Hansen said that he wasn’t scared of facing the defending champions.
“I felt no pressure at all going up against them. Because each year is different. I knew Burlington was going to be good, but in talking with people it sounded like we matched up very well,” he said. “I practiced for what I assumed they would be doing, and I was right, but we were not prepared for their speed of the game. It is tough playing against programs that could have different players each year due to open enrollment. Milton does not get many open enrolled athletes that excel in a particular sport.”
While the serve kept the Red Hawks in the contest, Hansen said the service return hampered them.
“Our serve receive did not (work). Our tempo did not (work),” he said. “We could not run our offense due to not being able to pass the ball in-system. It was just one of those matches that didn’t reflect on how we’ve been playing and practicing.”
Ashley Didelot led the Red Hawks in kills with six, tied with Chloe Buescher. Courtney Knutson hit four. Emma Sullivan hit two aces for Milton, while Knutson and Buescher each hit one. Skyler Salter had 11 assists. Jordan Karlen added six.
Defensively, Buescher had two blocks, while Knutson added one. Sullivan and Buescher each had 7 digs along with Salter’s six.
The Red Hawks finish the season 33-9 overall and second in the Badger South with a 6-1 record.