The Burlington Lady Demons celebrate a point during their sectional semifinal win over Westosha Central Oct. 28 in Beloit. Team members said a focus on fun helped them pull out of a mid-season funk and make their 12th run to the state tournament in the past 13 years. (Photo by Mike Ramczyk)

Volleyball team opens state tourney play Thursday night

By Mike Ramczyk

Correspondent

The volleyball factory is alive and well.

That’s right, the Burlington High School girls volleyball program is perhaps the most impressive high school sports program in the entire state.

Coaches Teri Little and Dan Lynch, her uncle, are making their 12th state tournament trip in 13 years and are seeking their fifth championship, which would break a tie with Westosha Central for the most all-time in the area.

This year, the Lady Demons are a staggering 38-4. They won the prestigious West Bend Sprawl by beating the state’s top three ranked teams, and they are on the precipice of another unforgettable tourney run.

Versatile, well-rounded hitting from Lydia Biggin, Morgan Klein, Abby Alan and Lauren Lang, pinpoint passing from setter Ella Safar and impenetrable, never-say-die defense from Molly Berezowitz, Kenna Kornely and just about everyone else on the roster makes this squad super dangerous.

“This is probably the most determined team I’ve been on,” said Kornely, a junior who was on the Demons’ state softball team back in June. “Everyone gives 110% and pushes themselves and each other at practice.”

Team captains Klein, Fiona McDermit and Biggin, along with seniors Kennedy Cornell, Lang and Brianna Morris have been around for hundreds of hours of blood, sweat and tears in the gym, and this year they are the leaders.

For McDermit, getting back to state never gets old.

“It felt completely amazing,” she said about Saturday’s four-set sectional final victory over Fort Atkinson. “I absolutely love this team and our coaches.

“We really stepped up our serve-receive and started playing confident. We were lining up against their best player, number 3, and were having fun.”

So what makes this squad special?

“Our personal connection to each other,” McDermit added. “We are friends both on and off the court. Our team also has an amazing work ethic and continually strives to succeed.”

McDermit says she has a goal of playing with confidence and intensity from the opening serve Thursday night at 7 p.m. when the fourth-ranked Demons take on No. 5 Kettle Moraine at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

 

Overcoming adversity

When asked if it was easy to run through the Southern Lakes Conference yet again and win all these games with the talent they have, many of the Demons said they appreciated the fact that all the success has taken hours of hard work and competition among each other in the gym – every day.

Klein said the team hit a lull earlier in the season and lacked some motivation.

But Little, Lynch and assistant coaches Brittany Neu and Madalyn McDonald implemented fun and at times grueling challenges at practice to keep the girls engaged and competitive.

The week before state, the team always has competition day on Monday, which can include anything from who can hit the ball off the wall the best or even writing or drawing contests.

They have non-volleyball related games, and the winner gets a prize.

Since it’s state tournament week, the Demons dressed up in neon and crazy hair Monday, had jersey day Tuesday and white T’s Wednesday.

McDermit said Monday’s competition day was a really good time.

“On Monday we did a variety of competition activities like wall ball, back row eight ball, answering riddles, answering trivia questions and if you don’t get it right your team has to keep going until you have all gotten it correctly,” McDermit said. “Long ball where you have to see who can launch the ball the farthest – you can do it however you want whether it’s using your fist to it, bouncing it first and then hitting it, or normal serving it.”

It is these kinds of tactics in a long, grinding season of three months that keep things fresh, light and fun.

“There was a point in our season that we seemed to be going through the motions and not competing to the best of our ability, so in our practices we started making everything a competition to re-spark our compete-to-win mentality,” Klein said.

To read the entire story and full coverage in stories and photos of the Demons’ sectional victories see the Nov. 4 edition of the Burlington Standard Press.

If you go…

What: (4) Burlington vs. (5) Kettle Moraine, WIAA State Volleyball Tournament quarterfinal

Where: Resch Center, Green Bay (across street from Lambeau Field)

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

The lowdown: The Lasers have the Demons’ number this season, beating them in both meetings, 2-1, on Aug. 27 at the Homestead Joust, and 3-2 at Kettle Moraine Sept. 13. The Lasers are ranked No. 8 in the state in D1, while the Demons are No. 5. Burlington’s only other losses came to state-ranked Catholic Memorial and Kimberly. It’s difficult for a team to beat another three times in a season, and the Lady Demons haven’t lost in the first round at state since 2015, with at least a semifinal appearance five years in a row.