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Muskego netters rally for epic sectional semifinal win over Franklin

Nov. 1, 2011

The great "Star Trek" parody "Galaxy Quest" had a motto that it used over and over throughout the course of the hilarious movie.

"Never give up, never surrender."

But even the Tim Allen-led crew would have said "Enough already!" and surrendered long before the Muskego boys volleyball team ever thought about doing so against host Franklin in a noisy and exciting WIAA sectional semifinal Tuesday night.

The Warriors were down two games to one in the best of five match and 21-16 in the fourth game before scoring seven straight points and rallying to tie the match at two games each with a 29-27 decision.

Then in the play-to-15 fifth game, Muskego found itself with its back against the wall at 14-10. All the Warriors did then, was fight off four match points, score seven of the match's last eight points and pull out an improbable 25-23, 15-25, 28-30, 29-27, 17-15 decision that put the team on the verge of its first-ever WIAA state tournament berth.

"I don't know how they did it," said an ebullient Muskego coach Joe Arbinger. "Like I told the guys in the (post-game) huddle, I've seen so much volleyball in my life, but never anything like this."

"This was simply unbelievable, whatever it is they found, they should bottle it."

The Warriors will now host 2009 state champion New Berlin in a WIAA sectional final at 7 p.m. Thursday with a berth in the Nov. 11 and 12 state tournament on the line.

But for Franklin coach Chris Dibb, whose senior-dominated squad went to state in 2010 and was looking forward to another trip this season, there is nothing but empty questions including "How in heck could this happen?"

"I definitely won't fault the kids for what happened here," he said. "They gave it their all. The 14 seniors we had went out with pride. I just credit Muskego with having great resiliency."

"It wasn't a rotation thing, because all five of our primary hitters are good and all of our defensive guys are sound. It's just one of those things. In a situation like ours, you expect to win nine times out of 10."

"Except not this time."

You could see this coming as the Warriors put the caps on a fierce season-long rivalry with the Sabers that was won by Muskego three matches to one.

In game three, the Sabers had a 23-19 lead but the Warriors refused to give in, fighting off five game points before a kill by Franklin's Steven Fons and an error at the net finally gave the home team the win and a two-to-one match lead.

And in game four, the Sabers had leads of 14-9 and 20-15 before Muskego went on a 7-0 run punctuated by three consecutive kills by senior outside hitter Joey Bandoszeski.

This time, Franklin fought off three game points (two of them courtesy of big-time kills from Evan Repavich) before a kill by the Warriors' emotional leader David "Cheeto" Mlachnik and a block at the net tied the match at two games-all.

The fifth game had enough ups-and-down to break the strongest yo-yo string, as Muskego got out to 4-1 and 7-4 leads before the Sabers went on two 4-0 runs (the second one highlighted by back-to-back kills from Repavich) to go up 14-10.

Arbinger took one last time-out.

"I just told them to go as hard as they could," he said, "and they did."

Two kills each by Mlachnik and junior middle hitter Sean Tobin highlighted the rally. The second Tobin block gave the Warriors a one-point advantage and then an error at the net by the Sabers set off a celebration for the ages.

Arbinger couldn't say enough about the effort of Mlachnik, who plays in a dififcult emotional puzzle-box as his father Dean is the freshmen coach at Franklin and was sitting on the Sabers' bench this night.

"It's a little tough for that family," said Arbinger, "but 'Cheeto' (named so for his flaming orange-colored hair) is the heart and soul of this team, we feed off his emotion. It is tough, yes, but I think he and his Dad make it a fun competition."

Dibb was just sad that his team couldn't reward the big crowd.

"It's been a great atmosphere for these matches the last two years," he said. "We just couldn't ask for any more support than we've gotten. It's just tough losing this way in front of them."

Dibb then reminded the players to go out and thank the remaining fans still in the gym after the post-game huddle, which they did.

 

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