Tosa East makes annual trip to state
Boys volleyball team defeats Lancers, 3-1, in sectional final
After its 3-1 win over Brookfield Central in a sectional final last week, the Wauwatosa East boys volleyball team earned its seventh straight trip to the WIAA state tournament.
The Red Raiders won the first two sets, 25-18 and 25-21, but the Lancers fought back to win the third set, 25-20. East then won a thriller, 25-23, to clinch the match.
"No, it never gets old," said a smiling East coach John Simon when asked about qualifying to state. "I believe that we are as good as we are right now because the adversity that helped us every step of the way.
"Our setter (Mitch Wagner) got injured twice. Our middle hitter (Mich Dillon) was not even here until Sept. 15. Senior Sam Schulz didn't play."
But the Red Raiders, who last won a state title in 2006, seemed to have come together at the right time, winning the Greater Metro Conference for the first time in 10 years.
"We set the standard high at Tosa East," senior Ben Mihelich said. "It's great to be able to live up to our legacy."
Junior Ben Plaisted added, "It's really exciting because I know what the experience is like. To go back there is really fun."
Big runs in final set
There was a similar pattern in the match as the sets were played with each team making big runs, as well as a healthy quotient of lift calls and unforced errors.
Central actually led 16-9 in the deciding fourth set, but East went on a 7-0 run thanks to three kills by Mihelich to tie the match. The Lancers took an 18-17 lead, but the Red Raiders scored seven unanswered points for a 24-18 lead, sparked by Dillon's two kills and Plaisted. Central then rattled off five straight, with East hitting three of the points out of bounds, pressing to get that final point.
After a timeout by Simon, East returned a shot off a Lancer player out of bounds for the win.
Simon said he felt the Red Raiders were going to be OK despite falling in the third set and trailing during the fourth set at times.
"(Set) four when they took that big lead, I said 'Boy we're making all these errors,' " Simon said. "We had nine errors and they were up 16-12. I said 'Are you kidding me.'
"We finally settled in, served in, and they were making some mistakes. We got a little momentum, kind of reversing it. Once we tied it, I thought if we continue this, they're going to crack. They played very, very well, but they made some critical mistakes."
East comes out strong
Central coach Ken Nash, a former Tosa East assistant, said the Lancers' struggles were costly.
"We had issues with a couple serve receives," he said. "Unfortunately, they got the runs at the right times. We had to battle back and it was a little too much space between us and them at the end there. I wish we had one more point, to have a little balance; a give and take. But we didn't make that."
In the third set, the Lancers had runs of 7-1 and 8-3 to close out the 25-20 win. East closed out the second set with a 12-3 run and had a 14-2 run to win the first set.
"It's a game of momentum," Simon said. "We knew going in that they (Lancers) were very, very good at getting momentum and rolling out three, four points in a row. We had a concerned effort to not make errors."
Nash added: "We didn't get down too much. When we did, we played less emotional, but when we got the emotion back, we started playing well again. That's how it goes with all sports."
Mihelich was thrilled to beat Central and punch another ticket to state.
"It means a lot of be able to beat Brookfield Central for the third time this season," he said. "They're a great team."
Looking at the stat leaders for the Lancers, Jim Keuper had 11 kills, Andrew Dusing had 27 assists and three aces and Jeff Thurston led the club with nine digs.
Tosa East was led by Mihelich with 17 kills and eight digs, Plaisted with 11 kills and 3.5 blocks.
Morgan Griffith had nine kills and seven digs, Wagner had 30 assists and Dillon had 2.5 blocks.
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