Gage Krumbach photo

Senior Gage Krumbach, a four-year letterwinner for the Madison Memorial boys volleyball team, leads the Spartans into a WIAA sectional test at Middleton on Tuesday.

PEG COLLINS

The Madison Memorial boys volleyball team placed second in the Big Eight Conference regular-season race, and then finished as runner-up in the conference tournament.

In both instances, the Spartans watched as Middleton won the titles.

Memorial has one final chance to come out on top when it visits Middleton today at 7 p.m. for a WIAA sectional semifinal match.

As always, the Spartans’ hopes revolve around the play of senior libero Gage Krumbach, a team captain and four-year letterwinner.

“It starts with Gage and our passing,” Memorial coach Steve Collins said. “When we are passing the ball well, we can compete with just about anybody. I think we did a really great job of that Friday (in a regional victory over Waukesha South)

“We will have to play a really good game, a near-perfect game, to beat Middleton. We have to pass the ball, we have to run our offense and we can’t have unforced errors.”

Krumbach earned second-team All-Big Eight honors while leading the Spartans to a 9-3 conference finish and 11-4 overall mark, helping the program take another step forward under Collins.

“The program hadn’t been to the sectionals, let alone had a winning season, for a pretty long time,” Collins said. “I was talking about it at the (team) banquet: Gage kind of came in with me and helped us right the ship to where we are competitive now.”

In addition to being the volleyball coach for the past four years, Collins has put in more than 20 seasons as coach of the Spartans’ highly successful boys basketball program. So he knows what it takes to be a winner, and he appreciates how Krumbach has worked on those qualities over the years.

“The biggest development I’ve seen is his ability to be vocal, which makes all the difference in our passing game,” Collins said. “He’s always been a good player, but I’ve been able to see him grow from a shy and bashful kid to one of the leaders of the team, and one of the captains. It’s wonderful to see that progression.”

Krumbach acknowledges being vocal wasn’t always easy as a younger player.

“Freshman year I didn’t really talk much, and I got a text from Coach saying I needed to talk more during games, communicate more, and tell the team what to do,” he said. “As the years went on, I felt more comfortable and confident that I could call things out and communicate to the rest of the team.”

Collins also praised Krumbach’s propensity to make extraordinary plays.

“He’s such a coachable kid, and he has this ability to get to balls that a lot of other players can’t get to,” Collins said. “Both the Krumbach boys are like that.”

Gage’s brother, Jack, is also an integral part of the Spartans’ attack. The versatile junior earned first-team All-Big Eight honors this season.

“Our team is pretty athletic,” Gage Krumbach said. “We just need to keep putting the pieces together, and keep everyone focused and ready for the next game.”

Krumbach said the Spartans are putting their full energy into being ready for the Cardinals tonight.

“I feel like this is our chance to show them who we are; this is our last hurrah,” he said.

Collins likes what he’s seen from the Spartans late in the regular season and the postseason.

“We’re playing our best volleyball right now,” Collins said. “And that’s where you want to be — playing your best at the end of the season.”

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