DOWNERS GROVE – It turns out the fifth time can also be the charm.
Downers Grove South's boys volleyball team didn't take top honors in any of the four regular-season tournaments it played in, but the Mustangs brought home the top prize in the most important tourney of the year.
With Saturday's 25-18, 25-20 win over Lincoln-Way North, the Mustangs brought home the 2013 state title, wrapping up a 31-10 season with the first championship in program history.
"That's something I was thinking about," senior Austin Adank said at a special ceremony Sunday morning at Downers South to honor the championship team. "This is the new standard now. We left our mark in school history as well. Our only goal the whole season was to get there, and we accomplished it."
The euphoria of Saturday's fantastic finish had yet to fully wear off over 12 hours later.
"It feels fantastic. It's finally starting to set in," senior David DeMarco said. "At first it didn't feel like how I always thought a state championship would, but now it's kind of setting in."
"This is unbelievable," senior Chris Widdel said. "Words can't describe what happened these past few days. I was hanging out with Nick (Timreck) last night and we were just smiling. We couldn't do anything else."
There were teams with better records (four of the other state quarterfinal teams had better records) than the Mustangs' 28-10 mark entering the state quarterfinals, but none had the better team.
"Their effort and commitment from freshman year, playing club five months out of the year, that extra time and commitment level to improve their skill set, and their chemistry and commitment to their teammates, that puts them above the rest," South coach Kurt Steuer said.
Boys volleyball tends to have a looser atmosphere than some other sports, and loose is the word that best describes this group of Mustangs players. They knew how to blow off steam away from the court, but they also knew how to take care of business on it.
"If you saw one of our practices, these guys were goofing around, but in between the lines they knew how to take care of business," Steuer said. "At state, we go into a small gym to stretch, prepare and do all that. Austin put on his iPod, and that gym was rocking. Guys were dancing. Looking around you wouldn't think they were focused and ready to go, but that's our identity. They're goofy, but they knew how to play when it came to game time."
After playing three-set matches from the regional championship against Glenbard West through the sectional clashes with Naperville North and Neuqua Valley and then in the state quarterfinal Friday night against Deerfield, South then played a pair of two-set matches Saturday. The Mustangs defeated St. Charles North, 25-18, 25-21, to earn their spot in the state championship match, which put the final stamp on a longtime goal. Winning state was something the 2013 squad discussed as far back as summer camp in 2012. It was something Timreck and his fellow seniors — Adank, Widdel, DeMarco, John Hanek and Steve Kryk — had thought about longer than that.
"This is something I've wanted to do since freshman year, and we finally did it my senior year," Timreck said. "What a way to go out. It's the greatest feeling in the world. This is something you always want to do – go to state and come out on top."