Like most other area high school sports teams, the Milton High School volleyball team is looking forward to some semblance of a return to normal.
Despite the fact that students in the Milton schools are back in masks due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in Rock County, fans are allowed at athletic events once more.
And that’s brought joy to athletes, coaches and fans alike.
The 2021 Red Hawk volleyball team is anchored by a quartet of seniors who have been together for a long time: Nine years, for some members of the group.
As the group of seniors enters their final year of interscholastic athletics, all that time together has created a tight bond and great chemistry both on and off the court.
The Red Hawks are off to an 0-5 start so far this season, but they’ve been getting great support from their fans.
And after a 2021 spring alternate season that saw only parents able to attend matches, the Milton seniors said they’re very happy to see the stands fill with their classmates.
“We’ve had some really loud student sections,” Red Hawk senior Jordan Karlen said.
Karlen, along with fellow seniors Emma Krull and Noelle Washkoviak, has been playing with this core group since fifth grade. That includes club volleyball.
Karlen is committed to playing college volleyball at Tennessee Technological University, where she’ll major in exercise science.
Karlen, Krull, Washkoviak and Grace Schnell, who’s kind of the newbie of the group after five years of playing volleyball, are all entering their third season at the varsity level.
Karlen and Schell are hitters. Washkoviak is the libero and Krull is the setter.
All the years of playing the sport they love together, the quartet agreed, have helped form the kind of chemistry a good team needs to succeed.
“We know what we’re thinking,” Karlen said. “We read each other’s minds.”
That includes regrouping on the court when things aren’t going well, Karlen added.
The Milton volleyball team is very much aware that its influence extends beyond the walls of Milton High School and into the Milton community.
And in that vein, the Red Hawks are planning a community night for their Sept. 23 home match against Fort Atkinson.
The event will feature mini-volleyballs tossed into the stands and a meet-and-greet after the match. Signed team posters will be given away.
The senior quartet is especially looking forward to interacting with younger kids who might one day take their places on the Milton volleyball team.
They seniors said they remember looking up to older players when they were younger. Now that they’re the players being looked up to, they feel a responsibility to those who follow them.
They’re also very aware that their senior year has arrived, and this is their last chance to make memories, both on and off the volleyball court.
“We know we have to set the tone,” Washkoviak said.
Milton coach Kaitlin Lundeen said her senior group this year is already growing into the leadership role.
“Some of them are more vocal leaders, while others are more the quiet, lead-by-example types,” Lundeen said. “You need both.”
Lundeen said her team isn’t disheartened by the slow start to the 2021 season so far. “We’ve got seven new girls on varsity,” Lundeen added. “It’s nice to have a senior group like this one to show the younger girls the way.”
The Red Hawks compete in the Badger Southeast, along with Fort Atkinson Stoughton and Monona Grove.
Lundeen is assisted by Sam Scalissi.