By Dan Truttschel/Sports Correspondent
Longtime Westosha Central girls volleyball coach Charlie Berg has been involved in many heart-stopping battles through the years.
But those experiences don’t make living through them any easier.
Berg watched his Falcons’ squad take a commanding lead in the fourth set of Saturday night’s Division 1 sectional final, but then had to hold off a valiant fight to survive and advance to this week’s state tournament.
Central (43-8 overall) ended two-time defending state champion Burlington’s run with a hard-fought 25-16, 21-25, 25-16, 26-24 victory at Janesville Craig. The win sends the Falcons to the Resch Center, Green Bay, for a first-round state matchup with Muskego Thursday night.
A preview of that contest appears elsewhere in this edition.
Berg, who has guided Central to 19 state tournaments and five titles, was proud of his squad immediately after Saturday’s matchup.
“It’s exciting,” Berg said. “I’m happy for the kids. They’ve worked hard. I think it was our turn. Burlington is a tremendous team.
“We got knocked down in the second game and the fourth game. We had to respond. It was character, a lot of composure and maturity by those girls.”
For most of the fourth and deciding game, it looked like Central would cruise to the sectional title.
The Demons had plenty to say about that, however, as they staged a furious comeback behind the powerful hitting of 6-foot-2 sophomore Quinn Spieker.
Spieker had three kills in a 7-0 run that tied the set at 20-20. Burlington eventually took a 24-22 lead before Central avoided having to play a fifth set.
“She hits a solid ball,” Berg said. “She’s a heavy hitter. She makes great contact. We were just trying to neutralize her, but you’re not going to ever stop her.”
Senior Ashley Jehlicka started the rally with a kill, followed by a solo block by junior Maddie Brown. After Burlington hit the ball out of bounds for Central’s 25th point, the Falcons clinched the match on a booming kill by senior Maria Rasch to punch their state tickets.
Berg admitted thoughts of a tie-breaking fifth set entered his mind after the Demons’ furious rally.
“I thought we were going to game five,” Berg said. “I just said, ‘Dig down. We need a block, a defensive play, a hit. We need to play defense.’ They made plays, and that’s what it’s all about.
The opening set was back and forth early before the Falcons took control with a 5-0 scoring run. Burlington closed the gap to six at 20-14, before Central scored five of the next seven points.
While the Falcons rallied in the fourth game, it was the Demons who came from behind in the second.
Central, which defeated Burlington five times this season, held a 22-21 lead on a kill that landed just on the end line by senior Megan Jehlicka, but the Demons scored the next three points to knot the match at a set apiece.
“We knew Burlington wasn’t going to die,” Berg said.
The Falcons’ top all-around offensive threat, senior Danielle Rampart, made her presence known in the third set.
Rampart, who had four aces in the match, connected on three of them during a key stretch that gave the Falcons a 9-6 lead. Central later used a 5-0 run that ended on a kill by senior Taylor Bergles to take control.
Leaders for the Falcons included Rampart with 15 kills, 20 digs and four aces; senior Hailie Hart with 20 digs; Brown with 14 digs and three aces; Megan Jehlicka with five blocks; Bergles with three blocks; and Rasch with 10 kills and three blocks.
Central sweeps Tremper
The Falcons advanced to the final with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 win Thursday night over Tremper in a semifinal played at Wilmot.
Central led throughout the first and third set and trailed just twice in the second as it was in command the entire way.