For every program, the goal is to be peaking when the postseason rolls around. After experiencing some ups and downs throughout the season, the Wauwatosa East boys volleyball team appears to be hitting its stride.
The seventh-ranked Red Raiders laid claim to second place in the Greater Metro Conference by taking down ninth-ranked Brookfield East in five sets, 27-25, 25-23, 19-25, 20-25, 15-9, on Oct. 12.
"It was a great match," Wauwatosa East coach John Simon said. "I was a little disappointed that we didn't put them away. We were in complete control of the match. I mean, without question.
"We did enough things to let them stick around, and they got the momentum and played well in games three and four. But we got our act together for game five."
Wauwatosa East grabbed a 2-0 lead by making key plays late in the first and second sets.
After leading the first set by as many as six points, the Red Raiders trailed, 23-21. A kill by senior Charlie Hutson and a hitting error by the Spartans pulled Wauwatosa East even. Brookfield East had set points at 24-23 and 25-24, but kills by seniors Eric Winter and Aaron Plaisted kept the Red Raiders alive.
A lift by the Spartans gave Wauwatosa East set point, and Plaisted closed the set with a thunderous kill off a popped-up dig.
The second set was close throughout, as the teams traded points from 16-16 to 23-23. Again it was Plaisted that closed the set for the Red Raiders, this time with a kill and a block.
Brookfield East kept the match alive by controlling the third set for a 25-19 win.
The Red Raiders appeared ready to close things out in four, but the Spartans rallied. Brookfield East used a 9-2 run to turn an 18-16 deficit into a 25-20 victory.
In the huddle between the fourth and fifth sets, the importance of getting the lead was stressed by the players.Simon broke the tension by informing his team they had let a lead slip away in the fourth set.
"I think that fired them up a little bit," Simon said. "We were up by five (in the fourth), and we had five straight errors, and all of a sudden it was tied. The air went out of our sails. But we responded well. Game five was a really good display of tough serves, controlling the net and passing well."
Hutson came out of the break firing, as he collected three consecutive kills to help Wauwatosa East build a 4-1 lead en route to a 15-9 win. Fighting through a sprained ankle, Hutson had four kills and an ace in the fifth set.
"The mentality was great," Hutson said. "I think we kind of got down on ourselves in (games three and four). We brought it to game five, gave it to them and showed what we had."
Plaisted finished with 22 kills, seven blocks and three aces, while Hutson had 14 kills. Winter added 12 kills, senior Blake Kratzer had 14 digs and senior Joe Marx had 50 assists.
The win moved Wauwatosa East to 2-1 in the Greater Metro. If the Red Raiders take care of business against Brookfield Central on Oct. 19, they will finish in second place behind top-ranked Marquette.
The Red Raiders will play in the Homestead Invitational on Saturday, Oct. 22, and host New Berlin United in a nonconference match Oct. 25 before the playoffs start Oct. 28.
"Middle of October is when we need to be playing our best," Simon said. "This is a step in the right direction, for sure. We're moving in the right direction."