Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne was so excited she had to pause and catch her breath.
She had good reason to be fired up.
Trippi-Payne's Bulldogs beat Neuqua Valley for the first time Thursday in Naperville, 25-22, 25-15, the landmark win also exacting a small measure of revenge for Batavia's Senior Night loss last season.
Trippi-Payne was bursting.
"It's just a very big win for our program," Trippi-Payne said. "I know Neuqua graduated quite a few players; so did we. We've really come a long way since Aug. 8, our first day."
Batavia's blocking controlled much of the action at the net against a Neuqua team that graduated a lot of firepower from last year.
Kristen Koncelik, the Bulldogs' 6-foot-1 middle committed to Evansville, had 4 blocks, as did Anysa Oncon.
"Neuqua has a great setter," Koncelik said. "We just tried following her and did what we needed to do."
Batavia (6-3) had 10 blocks as a team, capped off by sophomore middle Jancy Lundberg's for match point.
"I think Neuqua was a little surprised that we were going to keep blocking them," Trippi-Payne said. "We read their sets really well."
Neuqua, playing its third match in as many nights and 10th this week, started strong in both sets.
A Brooke Antenen kill gave the Wildcats (5-5) a 9-7 lead in the first set. But Batavia crept back in, aided in large part by six straight points scored off Neuqua errors.
An ace by Briahna Havis gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 12-11, and they never trailed again in the set.
"We let them back in," Neuqua coach Kelly Simon said. "Give Batavia credit."
Kills by Antenen and Kaylyn Hugdahl nudged Neuqua ahead 13-11 in the second set, but Koncelik made sure it was short-lived. A Koncelik kill gave Batavia back serve, and she dominated play the rest of the night with 3 kills and 2 blocks. The Bulldogs got stronger as the set progressed, and Neuqua couldn't answer.
"We had a lot of confidence toward the end of the match," Koncelik said.
Neuqua was still within 16-14 after a Hugdahl kill, but she gave Batavia back serve with a service error, setting up the match's biggest point. After a long rally featuring several Bulldogs digs, Koncelik blocked Neuqua's Taylor McKeown to make it 18-14.
For all intents and purposes, the match was Batavia's from there.
"We ran down a lot of balls," Trippi-Payne said, praising her team's defense. "We came up with some big, big digs. I think maybe (Neuqua) is used to some of those balls going down. We've been working on our defense since Day 1. That's something we need to do because we don't necessarily have the size some teams do."
Simon was quick to credit Batavia's defense.
"They just played out of their heads that second set," Simon said. "They were all over us. We couldn't get a kill. They were blocking us, they were digging us. If you can't get kills, it's tough to get points."
Koncelik had 7 kills and Heather Meyer 5 for Batavia, Audrey Faulhaber setting 18 assists and Jessica Hartmann leading with 7 digs. Kaylyn Hugdahl had 5 kills, McKeown 3 kills and 8 digs, Antenen 9 assists and 9 digs and Stephanie Vas 5 blocks for Neuqua.