Jason Miller stood on the court, holding his daughter and enjoying the moment. He had waited 11 years for it.
The Heidelberg coach watched his team do something Saturday the program had never done. Despite three regular season titles, the Student Princes had never won an Ohio Athletic Conference tournament championship.
Until Saturday, when they defeated Ohio Northern, 25-21, 17-25, 25-17 and 25-23.
Heidelberg, which won the league's regular season in each of the last two seasons, improved to 32-5, setting a mark for wins in a season. It will play in the Division III regionals next week.
Heidelberg had the berth sewn up after Friday's semifinal win over Mount Union. But that didn't make the win over the Polar Bears, who beat the Student Princes in the finals three consecutive years, any less sweet.
"It's really exciting," said HU's Jackie Reinhart, a New Riegel graduate who had 14 kills and 17 digs, and was named the conference's player of the year. "We're all together in this, and that's what makes this so exciting."
Heidelberg jumped out to a 15-10 lead in the first game, only to see the Polar Bears rally to take a 19-18 lead on a Melissa Eck attack error. Later, with the game tied at 21, HU ran off four straight points, getting kills from Reinhart and Amber Welfe and benefiting from a pair of ONU errors.
The second game went to Ohio Northern going away. The game was tied at 9 before the Polar Bears went on a 12-3 run, something Heidelberg couldn't recover from.
The third game was the turning point, as Heidelberg broke a 13-all tie with five straight points, getting kills from Marian Bevington and Welfe sandwiched around three Polar Bear errors. The Princes coasted from there.
"We tried to get a lot of momentum coming back," Reinhart said. "We knew we could do it."
That momentum seemed to carry over to the fourth game. Heidelberg grabbed a 17-13 lead after a Jacki Street kill, but Ohio Northern came back, cutting the lead to 19-18 after a Chelsie Timmons kill.
"I wasn't worried," said Heidelberg's Venessa Haase, who had four kills, two aces and 14 digs.
Marian Bevington answered the ONU rally with one of her match-high 15 kills, and the lead swelled to 21-18 after another Street kill.
Moments later, a Reinhart kill brought HU to match point at 24-21. But the Polar Bears didn't fold, scoring the next two points.
But a kill by Reinhart ended it.
"It felt good," she said of the final point. "That's all I can say."
Ohio Northern fell to 19-12. Cenzie Yoder had 11 kills.
For Heidelberg, Brittany Donelan, who won the league's libero of the year and was a first-team selection, had 22 digs. Bevington and Haase made the league's second team. Rachel Ferguson dished out 29 assists, while Calvert graduate Alexa Frank registered 16. Welfe had 12 kills.
"It's very special," Miller said of the win. "There are a lot of kids that worked very hard. That's a great group of kids."
And a group of champions.