Hard-hitting Eagan Peters-Michaud propels Middleton to Big Eight boys volleyball tournament title
Middleton senior Eagan Peters-Michaud rarely gets cheated when he swings.
“Some college coaches I have talked to about Eagan have said that his swing is ‘violent,’ ” Middleton boys volleyball coach Ben White said. “It’s a good way to put it.”
Whether jump-serving or unleashing his right-handed, whip-like swing at the net, the 6-foot outside hitter holds nothing back.
“I try to swing hard on any opportunity I get,” Peters-Michaud said. “If I see a big block, I usually try to go around it. But, sometimes, I try to go for it and it works out, I guess.”
Led by Peters-Michaud’s match-high 12 kills, top-seeded Middleton won the Big Eight Conference tournament for the 12th time in 13 years with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-20 victory over third-seeded Madison West in the championship match Saturday at Madison La Follette.
Middleton (32-5), which was undefeated while winning its seventh consecutive regular-season conference crown this season, dispatched eighth-seeded Madison Edgewood 25-7, 25-10 in the first round and fourth-seeded Fort Atkinson/Cambridge 25-12, 25-15 in the semifinals.
White held out 6-6 outside hitter Parker Van Buren (back) for precautionary reasons leading into the WIAA postseason, but 5-10 outside hitter Scott Buros came through with a productive day.
“It is a nice, balanced team,” said White, whose team is ranked third in the Wisconsin Boys Volleyball Coaches Association state poll. “We focus a lot on our outsides, with Eagan. … Today was a good day. We were without one of our starters, Parker, but Scott Buros played really, really well. I was really impressed with how he did.”
Aggressive play by 6-3 senior middle hitter Sam Dettman and 6-6 senior middle hitter Owen Engling helped set up opportunities for the outside hitters, including Peters-Michaud and the 5-10 Buros.
“Sam and Owen really went hard at the net for our team,” White said. “West and the other teams had to watch that and it opened up one-on-one for Eagan.”
Middleton was in control against Madison West during the first two sets, but had to rally from a 16-12 deficit in the third set. The Cardinals scored eight consecutive points, including four kills by Peters-Michaud, and seized a 20-16 lead during a rotation with Dettman serving.
“The difference with this team is our offensive firepower,” said White, who has 411 career victories in 18 years as the Cardinals’ coach. “Usually, in the past couple years, we’ve been a defensive-focused team where we’re going to scrap and not let the ball hit the floor and we’re going to make the other team earn their points and make it really hard for them. This year, the difference is we have probably four weapons. Anyone can be the ‘go-to’ at any time.”
Of course, Peters-Michaud — who became Middleton’s all-time kills leader Tuesday — remains a primary option. Peters-Michaud said the Cardinals’ good passing and senior Matt Ballweg’s strong setting are reasons Middleton has played so well. Ballweg totaled 57 assists in the three matches Saturday and became the Cardinals’ single-season leader in assists, White said.
“It means a lot,” Peters-Michaud said about rising to the top of Middleton’s kills list. “It’s a great honor. I know Michael Owen had the record before. I never got to play with him, but I know he was a good player. Andrew (Lepage) was a great setter for me and Matt is this year. Plus, every pass and every set to me, it was the whole team.”
Peters-Michaud hopes to play volleyball in college and said he’s considering St. Norbert College and Saint Xavier University (Illinois).
Madison West reached the final with a 25-15, 25-19 victory over second-seeded Madison Memorial in the other semifinal.
In the title match, senior Wes Jekel led the Regents with 10 kills and two service aces, while senior Jaden Weiss totaled three blocks and senior setter James Alvin had 21 assists.
“I think we have come a long from where we started,” said Jaime Vareka, in her first season as the Regents’ coach. “They have worked really hard. As a team, we have gotten a lot more competitive. I always think West has some very athletic kids. So there is always that potential there. Seeing where they started and where we finished today, I think we have gone further than most teams would expect. And I still think we have a long way to go, which is exciting.”
Madison Memorial defeated Fort Atkinson/Cambridge 25-17, 25-18, 23-25, 25-14 in the third-place match.