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West’s Lauren Carlini is B-N Player of Year

West Aurora's Lauren Carlini sets ball her teammate against Joliet Central during IHSA regional Benet Academy Tuesday Oct. 25 2011.

West Aurora's Lauren Carlini sets the ball to her teammate against Joliet Central during the IHSA regional at Benet Academy on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 29, 2011 8:08AM

So, just how competitive is Lauren Carlini?

“Basically, everything to me is competition,” said the 2011 Beacon-News Volleyball Player of the Year. “When we’re running (sprints) I want to be the first one to the line. Even when I’m driving, I want to be the first one off the line when the light turns green.

“My dad (Tony) said if I wasn’t a volleyball player I’d probably be a drag racer.”

While those fast starts haven’t resulted in any traffic tickets, the West Aurora junior’s volleyball career continues to motor on, full speed ahead.

Coming off a summer in which she represented her country playing setter on the U.S. Girls Youth National Team that competed in the FIVB World Championships in Turkey, Carlini split time at setter and right side hitter this fall, helping lead her high school team to its first conference championship since 1997.

“Lauren is the captain of our team and sets an example with her intensity, motivation and skill for all her teammates,” said West Aurora coach Kari Nicholson.

“She is an excellent teammate, the first one to encourage and suggest helpful strategies for her teammates as well as throw her hands in the air to celebrate their achievements.”

The 6-foot-2 standout had 273 assists and 198 kills for the 24-9 Blackhawks, who lost to Naperville North and Naperville Central in DuPage Valley Conference play but avenged both of those losses and tied with Central for the league title with a 12-2 mark.

Carlini added 41 blocks, 156 digs and 39 aces with her powerful jump serve and earned all-tournament team honors at the Benet Academy Tournament and Glenbard East Autumnfest. She was a unanimous all-conference selection and also made the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area Team.

“I like to think I was able to take everything I learned from the USA team and use it to help my school team,” said Carlini. “Winning our first DVC championship was definitely the high point of our season. We did a great job coming together as a team.”

With key contributors like Peyton McKenzie, Abriya Zeitz and Kaitlyn Richter returning with her next season, “I think we can win the DVC again if we continue to develop in the offseason,” said Carlini. “I know a lot of girls on the junior varsity are continuing to play club ball, too.”

Carlini, who plays for Aurora-based Sports Performance, is back at it after a short break following the prep season. It’s nothing new, since she started young in the sport and feels it’s one of the keys to her success.

“This is my 10th year,” she said, noting she started at age 5, inspired by her mother Gale, who played college volleyball at Appalachian State.

“When I was little she played in a Wednesday night league at the old Sports Performance building and I would watch or play with a ball, dribbling it and throwing it around, on the sideline,” said Lauren Carlini, who verbally committed to a scholarship offer from the University of Wisconsin following her freshman year of high school.

“(Gale) was a middle, which shows you how much the game has changed. She’s only 5-7. Both my parents were a big influence, though, and they really share that competitiveness. My dad was a wrestler and played baseball.”

Carlini headlines a talented team that features at least a dozen players who will move on to continue playing the sport at the next level, many of them at the Division I level.

It was a strong year for the Beacon News coverage area with nine teams — West Aurora, Rosary, Waubonsie Valley, Metea Valley, Yorkville, Batavia, Geneva, Newark and Indian Creek – winning 20 or more matches. Two more, Oswego and Kaneland, each won 19.

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