The Germantown boys volleyball team was clearly not just happy to make state when it won the sectional in an epic five-game thriller over conference rival Nicolet.
No, these callow, but talented and energetic Warhawks wanted to do something important once they reached the Wisconsin Lutheran College Fieldhouse in Milwaukee Friday night and they did in a very big way.
They handed experienced, fourth-ranked in state Wauwatosa East an impressive 25-14, 20-25, 25-12, 25-23 WIAA state quarterfinal defeat and launched themselves into the noon Saturday semifinals against top-ranked Marquette.
"I think that what this shows, is that we're here to stay," said Warhawk coach Brian Rushmer. "Once we got that first game, momentum was ours. We gave it back a little in game two but once we came out in game three we just pushed and pushed.
"That's something I've been working with this group on all season. That sometimes when we get ahead, we have a tendency to take the foot off the gas.
"We didn't do that tonight."
Now, the key is whether this youthful program (just five years old) can do it again, against top-ranked in state Marquette (44-4 in match play), which ousted number two-ranked in state Catholic Memorial in four games in another Friday quarterfinal.
The Hilltoppers have won five titles since 2002.
When asked if he was surprised at anything this Germantown team does, state observer and Nicolet coach Brad Kuehl, who led the Knights to state runner-up berths in both 2008 and 2009, just shook his head and said: "No."
The championship match is slated for 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Kaukauna will face Westosha Central in the other semifinal.
"This is just crazy," said sophomore setter Jake Showalter, who had 34 assists on the night. "We just played so good all night long and now we can't wait for the next match."
For senior outside hitter Tom Andrus, a four-year veteran of this program who had five kills and four digs in the match, this is the perfect way to be finishing things up.
"Most of our fans didn't believe that we could get this far," he laughed. "I guess we're just proving the non-believers wrong. ...(All that hard work) is finally paying off right here, right now."
Germantown made a believer out of veteran Red Raider coach John Simon right away, as the Warhawks took the lead and never trailed in the first game.
Then after it looked like East had righted the ship with a strong second tilt effort, the Warhawks went out and dominated the third game again.
Simon, whose team was making its sixth straight state tournament appearance, was a little taken aback by the result. Rushmer played for him at East some years ago.
"I've been at this a long time (29 years) and I've played a lot of matches against my proteges'," he said. "I was very pleased that he (Rushmer) got that job at Germantown and he's done a great job. ...We were a little surprised by their athleticism. They did such a good job of hitting around our block."
"I thought our experience would trump their energy in the long run, but it turned out that their energy was better than our experience."
That point came to the fore in the fourth game.
It looked like the Red Raiders were going to force a deciding fifth set as they gradually built a 15-8 advantage, but three straight Germantown points, including an ace right on the sideline by Zak Showalter (10 kills, two aces and three blocks) got the Warhawks close.
East pushed back scoring two in a row to go up 17-11, but then the Warhawks scored the next six out of seven points including two kills by Matt Schultz (13 kills and seven digs).
The Red Raiders proved game, notching the next two to go up 20-17, but then Germantown scored four in a row to go up 21-20. The last three of those points came on blocks. Rushmer said the Warhawks plan was to sell out and go for the block at all times against the Red Raiders' 6-6 middle blocker Max Kilpin.
"Even if that meant we only had solo blocks on the sides we were going to commit to that," said Rushmer. "Our main goal was to stay on him. When we were able to get stops like that, those were real momentum buiders.
"We weren't going to give up anything easy. We were going to fight for every point."
East took one more lead at 22-21, but then the Warhawks closed out the match with four straight points. The first two on errors (the Red Raiders had problems all night with that issue, as they had 26 hitting miscues and 14 service errors).
Then Germantown's all-state basketball player Zak Showalter got a critical block on Kilpin to make it 24-22 and then after East fought off one match point with a kill from outside hitter Ben Mihelich, Showalter closed things out with a deftly placed tip into the middle of the court.
"Every point we were just pushing forward," said Jake Showalter. "Every point became critical then. This was such a great atmosphere to play in and our energy was great all night."
Junior middle blocker Luke Fischer (eight kills), who had a breakout basketball game against Menomonee Falls in the Wisco Fieldhouse last winter, agreed.
"This just shows that we can play with the best," he said. "We play at the level we know we can, we can beat anyone. That fourth game showed that. It was just so intense. We were all in it together, one big team effort."
For Rushmer, it was a great win, another step forward for the program. Still, the young coach was left with a few mixed emotions at beating his old coach and school.
"It's good to beat my alma mater, my mentor," he said, "but I owe so much to John (Simon). I wouldn't be here without him. I've just learned so much over the last 10 years from him."
Just as his Warhawks are doing now.
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