Westosha Central’s Sierra Lee makes a leap in pursuit of the volleyball this season. Lee was among a handful of Falcons who made the all-SLN volleyball team (Earlene Frederick/The Report).

Bell headlines Panther girls

By Mike Ramczyk
Sports Editor

You really can’t have a tougher decision when it comes to deciding these postseason awards.

Do you go with the bona fide star, the All-American that’s set records in the process?

Or do you stick with the player that led her team to a prestigious state championship, one where she not only had to be the best player but also the most influential leader on the court?

After much deliberation, it’s clear.

State titles are so rare and unique that the ability to win one and be the team’s best player in the process trumps all.

For all of her accolades, Waterford senior Mia Grunze, perhaps the best hitter this area has seen, saw her Wolverine teammates bow out in the second round of the playoffs – at home, to a lower seed.

Grunze, last year’s Southern Lakes Newspapers player of the year, is amazing. The force with which she hits a volleyball and the sound it generates when it smacks the hardwood floor are rare.

But Burlington senior Abby Koenen is the 2017 SLN All-Area Volleyball player of the year.

An equally effective hitter, Koenen possesses the rare ability to take her teammates to extremely high levels with her play on the court along with her vocal leadership.

A squad that includes boys and girls players from four counties, not only individual accomplishments, but team success must be considered.

The super team features athletes from all 15 of our schools, including 15 girls varsity and five boys varsity squads.

Along sports writers Jason Arndt, Chris Bennett, Tim Wester, Daniel Schoettler, Troy Sparks and Dan Truttschel, we scoured the area for the absolute best of the best, trying to come up with a who’s who of area talent.

Team success was highly considered when choosing the squad, along with the eye test, accolades and overall impact on his or her team.

Who had that “wow” factor when hitting the ball?

Who struck fear in opponents?

And who could save an attempted spike, no matter if it was mere inches from the ground?

Tough decisions were made, as the Southern Lakes area is ripe with talent.

Please sit back, grab an ice cold beverage, and enjoy laughing at how right I am, or scoffing at how wrong I am, and let’s start the show.

Abby Koenen, senior, Burlington

Though Koenen and the Demons suffered rare losses to Waterford and Westosha Central early in the season, the senior leader raised her game and made her teammates better when it counted the most.

It started with Burlington’s mastery of Waterford in the SLC tournament final, along with an impressive run in the playoffs and at the state tournament that ended with Koenen slamming home the game-winning point to knock off previously unbeaten River Falls for the Division 1 state championship, the third in school history.

A six-rotation star, Koenen became a dominant all-around player as a senior, finishing with 438 kills, .288 hitting percentage, 29 blocks, 45 aces and 218 digs.

One of only two seniors that saw significant playing time, Koenen was a vocal leader during the state tournament and earned all-tournament team status for the second straight year.

She was named first team all-state and earned a Division 1 scholarship to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

At 6-feet, Koenen has the jumping ability to rise above taller blockers and the volleyball IQ to pinpoint her hits, as evidenced by a dominant run at state.

Koenen also earned first team all-county and all-conference.

“Abby is one of the top outsides in the state,” Burlington coach Teri Leach said. “She has always been a great offensive weapon for the Demons, but has grown tremendously this season in her ability to contribute defensively all six rotations.”

Teri Leach/Dan Lynch, Burlington

The yin to each other yang, Lynch works extremely well with his niece.

A coaching force since the turn of the century, Leach paces the sideline and barks strategies and picks her girls up during the action, while Lynch patiently waits back on the bench.

The duo’s addition of an assistant coach that strictly breaks down film this season helped lead to success at state, as the staff was able to analyze strengths and weaknesses with more efficiency.

Sticking to the theme of state titles usurping most other things, Leach and Lynch have now captured three gold balls since 2011 (2012, 2017), and the pipeline is strong.

What separates the duo is their dedication to the volleyball players of the area, no matter the age.

Leach runs Burlington Elite, the feeder program, so her system is taught at an early age, and Lynch also passionately promotes playing at a young age.

Leach and Lynch lost a lot of talent with players like Reba Thomsen, Alyssa Turzenski, Mackenzie Zwiebel and Megan Wallace, and despite playing two seniors, overcame two conference losses and a second-place SLC finish to win the conference tournament and the state championship.

Burlington’s ability to save its best for the end of the season shows that Leach and Lynch demonstrate several great attributes, including patience, unwavering belief in your players and system and most importantly resilience.

Mia Grunze, senior, Waterford
Talk about a human highlight reel.

Grunze’s season was ridiculous and may never be duplicated.

She set SLC records with 570 kills and 5.8 kills per set, crushing records previously held by Union Grove’s Caitlyn Wilks (kills) and Burlington’s Quinn Spieker (kills per set), and she earned honorable mention All-American and first team all-state for the second straight year in the process.

Grunze is Waterford’s all-time leader in kills, and she earned All-Racine County and All-SLC player of the year.

Grunze had an eye-popping .392 hitting percentage, a vast improvement from junior year, and she added 342 digs, 411 serve receptions and 50 aces.

She is No. 29 in prepvolleyball.com’s list of Senior Aces.

Perhaps most impressive is she led her team to victories over Burlington and Westosha Central for the first time in recent history and helped Waterford gain its first SLC championship since 2000.

“Mia is an incredible athlete,” Waterford coach Ashley Ingish said. “Not only is she a great athlete and volleyball player, but she is extremely humble and an excellent teammate and role model. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to lead our team over the past four years.”

Brooklyn Vandehei, senior, Burlington
In volleyball, it’s rare for someone to play multiple positions, let alone all of them.

Vandehei, who will play college volleyball at Erskine University in Florida, was capable of playing each spot on the court.

And when her team needed her to dominate, she did, as her seven late kills helped down DSHA in the state semifinals.

Vandehei finished with 15 digs for the match.

Her versatility is perhaps the best in the area, and she along with Koenen helped develop a culture of leadership and family from day one in the offseason.

Vandehei was named honorable mention all-state and second team all-SLC.

“Brooklyn is an extremely versatile, gifted volleyball player,” Leach said. “She started in each position this season for the Demons. Her knowledge of the game and ability to contribute from anywhere on the court make her one of the best.”

Briana Scuric, junior, East Troy
A WVCA All-State second team pick, Scuric shined for a Trojans squad that earned a No. 2 seed and advanced to a WIAA Division 2 sectional.

Scuric led East Troy to a 21-8 record and was the best player on the perennial powerhouse squad.

She earned first team all-Rock Valley Conference honors.

Malik Tiedt, junior, Burlington
The first boy on the squad, Tiedt can jump out of the gym and the hit the volleyball with equal explosion.

He led an extremely young Demons squad to a perfect conference mark of 8-0, and the team with one senior made it all the way to a sectional semifinal.

Tiedt led Burlington with 283 kills and earned first team all-county and all-conference accolades.

Voted second for all-SLC player of the year, Tiedt was in the top three of each category for the Demons beside assists.

“Malik is an outstanding young man who works hard in the classroom, is a stand-up young man both on and off the court and has incomparable leadership,” said Burlington coach Mike Jones. “When the game was on the line or we needed a big play, Malik was our go-to guy.”

Tiedt is a two-year team captain and two-year team MVP.

Connor Muff, senior, Westosha Central

Westosha Central senior Connor Muff (15) sets up a play for hitter Mason Welter against visiting Wilmot earlier this season. While Muff earned first team all-SLN honors, Welter received recognition on the second team (File Photo/The Report).

A player coach Wayne Schultz called one of the finest in Falcons history, Muff was a passing extraordinaire.

A first team all-SLC and all-county pick, Muff totaled 902 assists and 177 digs.

He added 124 kills.

“We have had many great players in our history, and Connor is right up there with the best,” Schultz said.

Muff is the Falcons’ all-time assists leader. Him and his teammate Jack Polick are the only two area boys players to earn all-state honors. Both made honorable mention.

Becca Blakeley, senior, Williams Bay
The unanimous Trailways South Conference player of the year was named first team all-conference four straight years.

She will play volleyball at Division 2 University of Illinois-Springfield next fall.

Head coach Bill Nevoraski said Becca has been playing since the age of 9 and is a very experienced, smart player.

Katie Schoessow, senior, Mukwonago
An elite libero, Schoessow helped Mukwonago post the area’s best record and reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament.
A first team all-Classic 8 and third team all-state selection, Schoessow led the conference in digs.
Schoessow will take her talents to Marquette next fall.

Jack Polick, senior, Westosha Central
One of the area’s best liberos, Polick was recognized as the Southern Lakes Conference player of the year.

He helped the Falcons to a 24-14 record and was also named honorable mention all-state.

The senior defender dove in for 504 digs while contributing 77 assists and 27 service aces.

“We were extremely honored the other coaches thought enough of our team to name Jack player of the year,” Schultz said.

Jack Polick earned all-SLN first team honors as a libero for Westosha Central (Submitted/The Report).

Kaley Blake, sophomore, Burlington
With some of the softest, most skilled finger tips and hands, Blake can put the ball anywhere she wants on the court with pinpoint accuracy.

A first team all-county and third team all-state selection, Blake also was named to the all-state tournament squad.

She dished out 949 assists, dug 182 balls and ripped 75 aces.

Couple all that with a .571 hitting percentage, and it’s easy to see why Blake has already received Division 1 college interest from West Virginia, Virginia and BYU.

She was named to the all-SLC first team.

“Kaley’s ability to run an offense and create opportunities for her hitters makes her one of the best setters in the state,” Leach said. “While not flashy, her hard work and knowledge make things look easy, even though they aren’t.”

Karlee Lois, sophomore, Union Grove

The team captain at such a young age, Lois’ maturity on and off the court is impeccable.

She was named honorable mention all-state and first team all-SLC.

What makes Lois’ game so unique is that even though she’s a setter, she’s a major threat in the offensive attack.

Her 223 kills ranked second on the team, as her dangerous left hand makes her a huge offensive threat, according to head coach Anne Sireno.

Lois tallied 772 assists, was perfect from the service line in SLC play, and added 503 digs, second-best on the team.

Lois is being recruited by Division 1 schools UW-Green Bay, Northern Illinois, Drake, Dayton and the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga.

“The majority of the season she ran a 5-1 offense,” Sireno said. “Her right back defense is very good, and she is aggressive by hustling to each ball.”

Falcons Laura Shoopman made the all area team for the second year in a row (File Photo/The Report).

Drew Pesick, senior, Burlington
The heart and soul of the Demons, Burlington’s lone senior can sky and plug up the middle as good an any local player.

His solid timing is only bested by his elite athleticism and raw power.

A first team all-SLC pick, Pesick was the closer in a pivotal, conference-clinching victory at Westosha Central, where his blocking and hitting won the match.

Also, he was the vocal leader and two-year captain.

Pesick was second on the team with 228 kills.

“He was the guy that needed to be fired up, and because he was, so were the rest of the guys,” Jones said. “His competitiveness and desire to win are unmatched by anyone.”

Alayna Jansky, junior, Mukwonago
The team leader in kills, Jansky will play college volleyball at Division 1 Western Illinois.

She was named third team all-state and first team all-Classic 8.

Sam Naber, freshman, Burlington
The first freshman on the first team, Naber is already receiving college volleyball interest from Division 1 powers UCLA and Notre Dame.

An all-state second team selection whose skills garnered a move from libero Maddie Berezowitz to outside hitter, Naber can dive into the smallest, most impossible windows and accurately save the ball to a teammate.

With 319 digs, she was dominant force in the back row for Burlington.

She was a first team all-SLC pick.

“Sam has amazing foot speed that allows her to defend half the court,” Leach said. “In an already strong Demon back row, Sam provided a huge spark defensively that allowed the Demons to extend rallies.”

Mariah Grunze, freshman, Waterford
The Wolverines simply don’t win conference in 2017 without the little sister of superstar Mia, Mariah, who is well on her way to a record-breaking career.

The only difference from last year’s starting lineup, Waterford went from fifth in the SLC to champions.

A six-rotation outside hitter, Mariah led the team in digs with 358 and aces with 78.

She was second with 318 kills and passed over a 2.0 on serve-receive despite tallying more than 740 service receptions.

Mariah was named first team all-SLC and second team all-county.

She made the UW-Oshkosh Showdown all-tournament team.

“She is an incredible complement to her sister, Mia. Together they led the team in almost every statistical category,” said Ingish.

Panthers senior Becca Bell (21) attempts a tip in kill during her team’s Southern Lakes Conference opener against visiting Westosha Central. Bell was named second team all-SLN (File Photo/The Report).

Olivia Dir, sophomore, Union Grove
Stats: 454 kills, 64 aces, 401 digs, HM all-state, 2nd team all-SLC

– recruited by Bradley, Northern Kentucky, Xavier, Creighton
Quotable: “We would give her the ball during crucial moments. She has a great line shot, which would catch other teams off guard,” Sireno said.

Senior setter Alex Tenhagen, of Wilmot, fields the volleyball against Westosha Central this season (File Photo/The Report).

Alex Tenhagen, senior, Wilmot
Stats: 538 assists, 56 kills, 58 aces, 77 digs, career leader in assists and aces at Wilmot

– 1st team all-SLC, four-year starter

Maddie Berezowitz, junior, Burlington
Stats: HM All-state, 2nd team all-SLC, excelled in back row before moving to outside hitter

Quotable: “Maddie took on the role of hitter with amazing poise and leadership,” Leach said. “She contributed in every aspect of the game, with high numbers of kills, digs and passing contributions.”

Rachel Mason, junior, Palmyra-Eagle
Stats: 1st team all-RVC, best kill percentage in conference

Quotable: “Rachel dominated in blocking at the net,” said head coach Kim Hetz. “She never left the court and was a huge part of our success.”

David Paul, sophomore, Burlington
Stats: 1st team all-SLC, 778 assists

Quotable: “David has some of the best hands I’ve ever seen,” Jones said. “Every ball revolves around David. He is a fun, easy-going guy who works hard in the classroom and is the guy you need to make you laugh on the court or in the huddle.”

Kampbell Hehr, junior, Walworth Big Foot
Stats: HM All-State, 1st team all-RVC, team MVP, captain

– missed 13 matches due to mononucleosis, 121 kills, 501 assists, 41 aces, 237 digs

– 3-time 1st team all-RVC

Quotable: “She is an extremely talented setter with hands that don’t compare,” said coach Caitlin Dowden. “She runs a quick tempo offense and can see the court extremely well.”

Elizabeth Klein, junior, Burlington Catholic Central
Stats: 1st year at setter, ran 5-1, 1,082 assists, 273 digs, 9.3 asst/set, 49 blocks, 1st team all-MCC, led MCC assts, led Toppers to 8-0 MCC record, sectional final

Quotable: “Elizabeth is an athlete that every coach wants on their team,” said coach Bailey Racky. “She pushed her teammates to get better every day. She is a true competitor.”

Sierra Lee, junior, Westosha Central
Stats: 2nd team all-SLC, captain, went from setter to full rotation outside hitter this season

Quotable: “Sierra really stepped up as a leader on this team,” said head coach Megan Awe.

Kennedy Muff, junior, Westosha Central
Stats: 1st team all-SLC, HM all-state, captain

Quotable: “Kennedy is one of the most positive kids I’ve ever met in my 12 years of coaching,” Awe said.

Westosha Central’s Kennedy Muff leads the train of positive cheers at a game held earlier this season (File Photo/The Report).

Trey Krause, junior, Burlington
Stats: libero, 1st team all-SLC, 2-year captain, 361 digs led team, passed team-leading 2.32/3

Quotable: “Trey had a knack for knowing where the ball was going to be before it even got there,” Jones said.

Kelsey Henderson, sophomore, Union Grove
Stats: 577 digs, 40 aces, 134 assists, HM all-state, 2nd team all-SLC, broke school digs record
Quotable: “She always encourages her teammates,” Sireno said.

Becca Bell, senior, Wilmot
Stats: 2nd team all-SLC, played MB, OH and setter

Laura Shoopman, junior, Westosha Central
Stats: HM all-state, 2nd team all-SLC
Quotable: “She developed this season into an all-around player,” Awe said.

Katie Zewiske, senior, East Troy
Stats: Outside hitter, 1st team all-RVC

Makenzie Vertz, Mukwonago
Stats: HM All-State, all-state tournament team, 1st team all-Classic 8, 2nd in conference in assists

Mason Welter, senior, Westosha Central
Stats: 244 kills, .450 hitting percentage, 2nd team all-SLC

Quotable: “Mason was a dominating force in the middle,” Schultz said.

Honorable mention

Andy Ellingham, jr., BUR. Adrienne Bain, sr., Elkhorn. Hanna Fredrickson, WB. Sophia Foster, WBF. Emme Bullis, Whitewater. Cameron Wischnowski, WIL. Dax Cramer, Union Grove. Eli Scheckel, UG. Coley Haggard, BUR. Karissa Cullen, Lake Geneva Badger. Hailey Wittliff, Delavan-Darien. Luke Iding, MUK. Sara Bedessem, WIL. Anna Hackbarth, CC. Grace Spiegelhoff, CC. Sammie Seib, CC. Mati Jakscht, ET. Kevin Kessel, jr., WIL.


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