Muskego, Mack head back to state volleyball tourney
MHS begins tourney Friday with Marquette
Muskego - When the WIAA State Boys Volleyball Tournament begins Friday, Muskego head coach Joe Arbinger and several of his players will be returning to familiar surroundings.
They were at Wisconsin Lutheran College for last year's state tourney, in which the Warriors fell to Kaukauna in the quarterfinals.
Another Warrior, senior outside hitter Tony Mack, will also make his return to the state event - but this time he will be in a different uniform.
Mack's second time around
Mack, then a sophomore, was a starting middle on Catholic Memorial's 2010 state championship squad, and he holds fond memories of that experience.
"I remember the energy in that building," Mack said. "In a way, it is humbling. This is the biggest tournament of the whole year, and it is like a privilege to be there. You know that all your hard work is paying off."
Mack later transferred to Muskego High School. In accordance with WIAA rules, he sat out the 2011 season before returning this fall and helping the Warriors to their second straight state trip.
He is happy to be back at state, saying, "This feels great, amazing really. It's nice to know that it is not my first time there."
He said since he has the state experience, he plans to help out those teammates who have not played at state yet.
"I will tell them you can't get distracted by the atmosphere," he said. "It's nice because (our starting lineup) is all seniors, except for our sophomore setter (Matt Pedersen). I will have to make sure that he has the right mind-set for state."
Mack, who racked up a team-high 293 kills this season, thinks the Warriors are in good shape for the state tournament.
"Our offense is strong, and our block is very big," he said. "Our senior right-side hitter (Al Grunert) stands 6 feet, 6 inches and puts up a giant block, and our middles do a good job on the block.
"Our setting has improved this season. Matt Pedersen (337 assists) and Ryan Alvine (370 assists) have really stepped up to the plate."
Arbinger is also happy with his team's play heading into state, coming off Muskego's first-ever outright conference dual championship with a 6-1 record in the Classic 8, as well as the regional and sectional crowns.
"We thought (returning to state) was a reasonable goal this season," the coach said. "The guys were focused on that; it was one of our main goals. I knew we had a team that was capable of it.
"I often spoke to the team this year about climbing ladders, and I said every game is a step. Getting the top seed in the sectional was a step, and winning the regional and sectional were steps. Now we have more to take."
Eyeing the competition
The Warriors will meet fourth-seed Marquette at 5 p.m. Friday in a quarterfinal match. If they win, they could face top seed Appleton North, which is unbeaten in 31 matches, in the semifinals at noon Saturday.
"North is the favorite," Arbinger said. "We played North once this year and lost in two games in a tournament at Kaukauna. That team is completely solid."
Mack agreed, adding, "Appleton North is the most sound team all the way around in the tournament. It is hard to find a weakness."
Muskego won its sectional last week with victories of 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 25-16 over Racine Horlick on Nov. 1 and 25-22, 28-26, 25-17 over Franklin on Oct. 30.
"Horlick is a good team and an emotional team," Arbinger said. "We were playing there, and we knew they would play hard. It was a great atmosphere; our fans were great and their fans were great.
"Our guys played their game, which is to pass well and slow things to our pace. Horlick is extremely athletic with guys who can jump through the roof."
The Warriors played a tough match Oct. 30 against rival Franklin, which had extended them to five games in the 2011 sectional.
"The first game was tied at 18-18 before we built a lead," Arbinger said. "In the second game, we were down 24-21 but came back to win. If we had lost, that would have changed the whole tone of the match. In the third, we took a lead and then stayed on top."
Muskego played without Mack, who had a sprained ankle, but Arbinger said other players stepped up to pick up the slack. Mack did return for the Horlick match and will play at state.
Ironically, if the Warriors did reach the championship match, Mack could be matched against his old school, Catholic Memorial.
"It would be interesting to see if that did happen," he said. "I would definitely enjoy that moment."
ON TO STATE
The schedule for this weekend's WIAA State Boys Volleyball Tournament:
FRIDAY, NOV. 9
Quarterfinals, 5 p.m.
Muskego (26-6) vs. Marquette (21-7)
Appleton North (31-0) vs. Germantown (23-8)
Quarterfinals, 7:45 p.m.
Wauwatosa East (30-6) vs. Kettle Moraine (19-9)
Catholic Memorial (27-9) vs. Burlington (23-3)
SATURDAY, NOV. 10
Semifinals played at noon
Championship match at 5:30 p.m.
All matches played at Wisconsin Lutheran College
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