With all the smiles, photographs and hugs on the West Aurora court Thursday night following a DVC-clinching win over Glenbard East, it was like the Blackhawks didn't want to leave.
Who could blame them? That home court has been mighty good to West Aurora the past two years.
A program that had never won a DVC volleyball championship until last season now has two in a row. No wonder 30 minutes after their 25-6, 25-18 win there were still players, coaches, family and friends milling about until coach Kari Nicholson announced it was time to go out and eat.
"It's emotional, it's exciting for them," Nicholson said. "This was their goal at the beginning of the season and they played really well this season so it's nice we reached our goal."
West Aurora (30-5, 13-1) won the title by a game over Naperville Central. Senior Lauren Carlini ended the match in fitting fashion with an ace for the final point, a ball that hit the net and fell in.
"I definitely did not want to miss my last serve on the West Aurora court," Carlini laughed. "I tried to keep it in and luckily it got over and I was surprised it was an ace."
Carlini finished with 7 kills, 2 aces and 9 assists in her final home match. After the postseason -- which begins for the Blackhawks as the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Waubonsie Valley regional next week -- it's off to Wisconsin for the star ranked by prepvolleyball.com as the top senior in the country.
"It was an emotional night for all the seniors and the coaches also," Carlini said. "At first everyone was a little shaky, a little jittery but we got that out of our system and played like we usually do.
"When we heard we were undisputed champions everyone went crazy on the bus and it was so awesome," Carlini said of finding out Tuesday that Naperville Central had lost to Naperville North. "Finally all this hard work we've been doing the last couple years has really paid off."
Nine seniors -- Carlini, Peyton McKenzie, Elli Martin, Amy Arrocena, Nerissa Vogt, Kaitlyn Richter, Kit Tumpane, Ally Wayzer and Molly Jordan -- played their final home match, and Nicholson made sure the seniors played the majority of the match.
Martin added 6 assists and McKenzie 6 kills and 5 digs.
"It's bittersweet. You are sad to see them go but you know their future is very bright," Nicholson said. "It has been a phenomenal run. We've had Lauren on varsity since freshman year and that's a whole other set of emotions to watch her grow up and become the fabulous young lady she is. Peyton and Kaitlyn for three years, really been vital to our program. They all have."
Glenbard East coach Marci Maier was encouraged by the second game. The Rams led 4-0 and were tied as late as 17-17.
"We played extremely well, had a couple good serving runs in there," Maier said. "Brittany Peters had a great serving run, Meghan Hanewall was ripping balls for us in the front row. We competed that second game, it was nice to see, especially since the next game we play is going to be a regional game. It was nice to get a little momentum going into regional competition."