Glenbard West coach Pete Mastrandrea spent a long Thursday waiting for the Class 4A girls volleyball regional at the Hilltoppers' home court.
"I was nervous all day, the longest day ever," Mastandrea said. "It never would end, I was just waiting to get at it."
Not his players.
"No, we had a lot of confidence," Hilltoppers senior Amanda Perry said. "We knew we'd win."
The Hilltoppers calmed their coach's nerves with a 25-15, 25-10 victory against West Chicago, their first regional championship since 1985.
"It feels great," Perry said. "I've been on the team since freshman year, and we've wanted this ever since. Being a senior it feels awesome, just amazing."
"We were close last year," Mastandrea said, remembering a 25-22, 24-26, 26-24 loss to St. Charles North in last year's regional final. "We worked all year to get past this point. We hope that we enjoy this briefly and get back to work and try to go on, just move on. This is a dangerous team. When we're on fire, we believe that nobody can beat us. I love the kids. I'm so happy."
Ninth-seeded West Chicago (18-19) believed it could beat No. 1 Glenbard West (35-2), and the Wildcats played like it early, taking a 4-1 lead in Game 1 and staying with the Hilltoppers through 11-11.
"We knew that they were pretty strong," Mastandrea said. "I was expecting a battle, no doubt. But I never panicked. Honestly, I believe in these kids. I think they're on a mission. They've done so much, and I think it's the beginning for them."
The Hilltoppers scored six straight points and 14 of the next 18 to win the first game. They kept the momentum going through Game 2.
"I don't know why we couldn't sustain it," Wildcats coach Kris Hasty said. "We were a different team on Tuesday against Addison Trail. I know Glenbard West is a little bit more solid, but we couldn't sustain it. We hung our heads a little bit after a couple of mistakes. We couldn't bounce right back. We didn't have the same chemistry we had Tuesday, that's for sure."
"We were really fired up and we wanted this game really bad," added West Chicago senior Nora Palermo. "We knew that it was going to be tough, but we wanted to push through it, and that's what we did when we stepped on the court."
Palermo was especially excited for the match, her kills earning West Chicago three of those first four points. She finished with a team-high 6 kills.
"It's my senior year and I wanted to go out with a big bang," Palermo said.
"She's a competitor," Hasty said. "Down to the last very point, she was like, 'Come on you guys, we can do this,' and just worked her tail off today, so I'm real proud of her. She gave a great effort."