HARVARD -- Pain was a constant companion for Emily Aigner this season.
And ending her high school volleyball career, along with six other senior teammates, clearly hurt Thursday night when second-seeded Lakes (22-12) fell 25-8, 25-12 to top-seeded Richmond-Burton (33-4) in the Harvard Class 3A regional championship match.
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But it would have been much more agonizing for Aigner not to play the entire season with a torn right labrum that will require surgery.
"There were times I couldn't lift my arm, but I never asked for sympathy and I played through it," said Aigner, who had 6 digs. "I had to fight through it for them."
The same kind of fight Lakes coach Molly May saw from her team in a match where the Rockets scored the first 7 points behind standout junior Ali Frantti and never trailed en route to their first regional title since 2005. They advanced to Tuesday's 6 p.m. Marian Central sectional semifinal against Kaneland (23-12), which won the Hampshire regional title 25-19, 25-23 over Sycamore.
Aigner and classmates Shelby Trkla, Shannon Grant, Alex Silvola (5 digs), Sarah Horner, Kim Olson and Stephanie Reed helped the Eagles to consecutive North Suburban Prairie titles and a trip to the sectional final last year.
"The seniors put their heart into the program," May said. "It's a group I started with and they worked their butts off and deserve a lot of respect. It showed they wanted to end their season and in some cases their careers with no regrets.
"You wouldn't know and couldn't tell Emily was hurt because she's a true competitor, a true athlete and it was worth it to her."
The first of 9 kills by the 6-foot-1 Frantti (5 digs, 4 blocks, 4 aces) set the tone for a match where R-B minimized its mistakes and gave Lakes few openings.
"They're a solid team and they made almost no errors," Aigner said.
"R-B's defense was flawless," May said. "We tried to mix up our shots but they were everywhere."
R-B coach Kaycee Kaywood, whose team won its first 23 matches, also thought bringing Frantti from some unexpected multiple angles made a difference offensively.
"We played very cohesively tonight," Kaywood said. "Our goal the entire season has been to play very consistent together ... and keep it at 100 percent, keep it clean and work our offense, which is obviously our strong suit. The girls were really, really focused tonight."
Frantti's power was complemented by the precision of Kim Russell and Alex Callanan with 8 kills apiece.
"Alex had an amazing game and is the smartest player on our team by far," Kaywood said.
"She's the best outside hitter of any high school around," Aigner said. "They're a smart team."
Lakes got within 17-11 in the second game on an ace by Maddie Demo (4 assists). Silvola's kill temporarily postponed match point but Frantti fittingly and emphatically ended it with a kill.
Now it will be up to key returnees such as Haley Halberg, Abbi Mehnert and Demo to sustain Lakes' success.
"Hopefully Lakes volleyball continues to be a great team," Aigner said. "A lot of seniors are leaving but hopefully they continue on with what we've been doing the past few years."
If they follow Aigner's example, that's likely to happen.