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Girls volleyball: Lauren Carlini named Beacon-News Player of the Year

West Aurorsenior Lauren Carlini totaled 333 kills 303 assists 156 digs 92 aces 50 block kills leading Blackhawks conference regional

West Aurora senior Lauren Carlini totaled 333 kills, 303 assists, 156 digs, 92 aces and 50 block kills in leading the Blackhawks to conference and regional championships this year. | Mike Mantucca~For Sun-Times Media

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Beacon News Players of the Year ...

2011 — Lauren Carlini, S/RS, West Aurora

2010 — Martha Stewart, OH, Waubonsie Valley

2009 — Lauren Wicinski, OH, Geneva

2008 — Lindsey Weber, OH, Rosary

2007 — Christine Hartmann, OH, Rosary

Updated: December 24, 2012 6:53AM

She’s everybody’s All-Stater and/or All-American, so it’s hardly a surprise West Aurora’s Lauren Carlini repeats as The Beacon-News Player of the Year for 2012.

The senior setter/right side, who made good on her verbal commitment as a freshman by signing a national letter of intent earlier this month with Wisconsin, improved her numbers each of her four years on coach Kari Nicholson’s varsity as the players around her improved.

Carlini and the Blackhawks won the DuPage Valley Conference title outright this season after sharing it last year and then won the Waubonsie Valley Class 4A Regional before falling to eventual state champ Benet Academy in a sectional semifinal.

“It’s been a phenomenal run,” Nicholson said of Carlini and her fellow seniors, who include first-team all-area selection Peyton McKenzie.

Carlini upped her season totals this year to 333 kills (198 last year), 303 assists (273) and 92 aces (39) while matching her 156 dig total and dropping from 56 to 50 block kills.

Rick Butler, who with his wife Cheryl, has directed the Aurora-based Sports Performance Club program since 1981, and both have coached Carlini during her 11 years as a player for SP.

“Lauren fell in love with volleyball and it was pretty apparent since seventh grade she was gonna be a strong player, especially after she grew and with her work ethic,” said Rick Butler, who has had two former players named Gatorade National Player of the Year and 10 selected as the top player in Illinois and more than 500 go on to play in college.

The Gatorade honor hasn’t been announced for this year, but the 6-foot-2 Carlini will be playing in an Under Armour-sponsored all-star game held in conjunction with the NCAA D-I finals next month in Louisvlle and was named the country’s top recruit by

“Lauren is right at the top,” Rick Butler said. “She’s got elite level skills and what makes her so exceptional is that she’s equally dominant as a setter and a hitter, which is so rare. She’s extremely talented and does everything well.

“Compared to basketball, it’s like being able to score inside or outside.”

Ultimately, he thinks her highest potential will be achieved as a setter.

“She has high-level potential setting that could be at an Olympic level,” he said. “I don’t know if she can hit at an Olympic level, only because those players are getting so tall, many are 6-4 and 6-5.

“I think she ultimately will be a 5-1 setter. At 6-2, she can be an above average hitter in college. She’s got great work ethic and her volleyball IQ and competitive IQ are up there. A lot of kids at that level get by on talent a lone, but winning is very important to her. She is so driven. If they keep score, no matter what it is, she wants to win.”

Setting’s importance may be lost on the more casual observers of the sport, but it’s comparable to a quarterback in football.

“Setting is unbelievably crucial,” said Butler. “If you have a great wide receiver and no one to throw it to you, it doesn’t do your football team much good. Setters are the same, and Lauren can set from one side of the court to the other and from the back line to the front of the net.”

Wheaton Warrenville South coach Bill Schreier noted that ability after an early-season loss.

“Mention that one play,” he said, “the one where she went 10 to 15 feet out of bounds and still set it to the other side of the net. That’s competing. And that’s what it’s all about.”

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