Members of Marquette University High School’s boys volleyball team celebrate their state championship at an event at the school on Tuesday, Nov. 16. (Photo by Larry Hanson)

When you become the head coach at a program with as much tradition as the Marquette University High School boys volleyball team, it can be a double-edged sword.

On the one hand, you know you are walking into a great situation.

On the other, you know there are high expectations to live up to.

First-year coach Jake Cosson did just fine with that, leading the Hilltoppers to their state-record 10th WIAA state championship as they defeated Westosha Central, 3-2 (14-25, 25-12, 19-25, 25-20, 15-10), on Saturday, Nov. 6, in the championship match at the Resch Center.

“It has been a while since I was a head coach, but I was very excited to get the opportunity this year,” Cosson said. “To win state in my first season as a head coach was pretty remarkable.  I was fortunate enough to have an amazing coaching staff to support me, and wonderful players and families that bought into what we were doing from day one.”

It was Marquette’s first title since 2017. They had been runners-up in 2020.

Before becoming head coach, Cosson served as the school’s JV coach for seven years and the varsity assistant for seven more. He has also been involved with the West Allis Lightning Volleyball Club.

The Hilltoppers finished the season 39-9.

Marquette reached the finals after defeating Wauwatosa East, 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-21), in the quarterfinals on Nov. 6, and dropping Arrowhead, 3-1 (25-19, 24-26, 25-17, 25-19), in the semifinals on Nov. 5.

However, in the championship match against Westosha Central, led by Bradley Bell, the Hilltoppers had to rebound from deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before rallying to win the match and the title.

“We had a mantra all season long that all that mattered was our group of 20,” Cosson said. “If we all believed in one another, and supported each other during times of adversity, we could do anything.  That’s what got us through being down 1-0 and 2-1.  We looked at each other in the huddle after each set we lost and knew that we hadn’t played well.  We didn’t execute the game plan, and we felt very confident in that plan.  That took the pressure off the boys on the floor, and allowed them to focus on execution instead of focusing on being down 1-0 or 2-1.”

In the fourth set, after a 15-15 tie, Marquette rattled off five consecutive points to take control and scored two straight after Westosha got within 23-20.

In the fifth set, the Hilltoppers found themselves behind 4-1 before a 13-4 run staked them to a 14-8 lead just one point away from the championship. That last point came on a kill by Cole Simi off an assist by Jack Fitterer.

“All season long, our ball control (serving and passing) is what we emphasized,” Cosson said. “We weren’t the biggest team so we couldn’t go toe to toe with teams at the net.  We knew we needed to serve teams out of what they wanted to do all season long to be able to compete.  When you play a team like Westosha Central and they have a player of Bradley Bell’s caliber, playing in the position that he does, you have to serve extremely aggressively so they can’t set him.  We were able to do that just enough to be able to get the job done.”

Nick Hartshorn led the Hilltoppers in the title match with 15 kills while Wil Beyer added nine. Fitterer finished with 19 assists and Nate Flayer had 18 assists and 14 digs.

They kept Bell in check by limiting him to 11 kills in the match.