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Girls Volleyball: West Aurora primed for playoffs

West Aurora's Coach Kari Nicholsgives instructions her team West Aurora. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media.

West Aurora's Coach Kari Nicholson gives instructions to her team at West Aurora. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: December 12, 2012 10:42PM

Top seed West Aurora may have been placed in a true geographic regional for the start of this week’s playoffs, but the DuPage Valley Conference champion Blackhawks won’t be seeing a lot of familiar faces.

“We’ve played (host) Waubonsie Valley at the Benet Tournament and that’s it,” West coach Kari Nicholson said of the field that also includes No. 2 seed Rosary, 4 Metea Valley and 5 East Aurora with her 30-5 team and the No. 3 Warriors.

Nicholson was surprised a couple weeks ago when she went online to take part in postseason seeding and found that the Illinois High School Association had changed the format. Yorkville has moved up to Class 4A this year and since it is not located within the area the IHSA designates the “Chicagoland box,” rather than seed the 22 teams in the Class 4A Neuqua Valley Sectional field, coaches were assigned to an “area” regional and voted only on that grouping.

Several coaches in the Naperville Central Regional, which includes top seed Benet Academy, the No. 2 hosts, 3 Naperville North as well as both Downers Grove schools and No. 6 Neuqua Valley (co-champs of the Upstate Eight Valley with Metea Valley), are not happy with the process. They contend too many of the sectional’s top-tier teams are loaded into their regional and will play each other too early in the postseason.

Yorkville may not be Chicago-based, but it’s still only 15 miles from sectional host Neuqua Valley, they have argued, to no avail.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Yorkville coach Mike Dunn said. “It’s not like we decided it. All we can do is play.”

His 19-6 team wrapped up the program’s first conference title last week with a win over Kaneland to secure the Northern Illinois Big 12 East crown and is the No. 4 seed at the Plainfield North Regional, where the 25-8 hosts got the top seed.

“We’re playing our best volleyball at the end of the season,” said Dunn.

Lemont (22-12) is the top seed at the Romeoville Regional, which also features 24-10 Lockport.

“We were with (top-ranked) Benet last year (and lost in the regional final),” said Nicholson, whose team will get a rematch in the sectional semifinal if the regional seeds bear out.

West is also coming off a fourth-place gold bracket finish at last week’s 24-team Glenbard East Autumnfest, the Blackhawks’ best showing ever in that event. The tourney included a three-set win over DVC runner-up Naperville Central after the two had split in league play.

“I’m excited about the postseason,” said Nicholson. “We’ve got a really great group of kids. I’m not ready for it to be over and they’re not either. We’ve got more goals to reach.”

Wisconsin recruit RS/S Lauren Carlini, who is one of nine seniors on the roster, leads the way but she gets help from three-year varsity player and St. Joseph’s recruit OH Peyton McKenzie, S Ellie Martin (4.5 assists-per-set), RS Kaitlyn Richter as well as middles Nerissa Vogt and Abriya Zeitz, among others.

Batavia hosts a 4A regional that includes No. 2 seed Geneva and feeds into the Larkin Sectional.

In 3A, Kaneland is the top seed at Hampshire and looks to move on to the Marian Central Sectional while IMSA hosts a regional that features perennial power St. Francis, which will likely advance to the Glenbard South Sectional.

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