GENEVA – You’ll have to excuse Geneva girls volleyball coach KC Johnsen for being at a loss for words after the Vikings’ 25-20, 19-25, 25-22 win against rival Kaneland Wednesday night.
Considering the Vikings’ 21-14 deficit in Game 3, a Geneva comeback seemed to lack credence as the team appeared to be buried. Alas, a few Kaneland unforced errors sandwiched around the play of Geneva’s Hannah Buck provided the unbelievable script to the Vikings’ rally.
“It would have been enjoyable even if we hadn’t caught them at the end – maybe,” Johnsen said with a big grin. “I really don’t know how that happened. They had it and we were trying to draw that line in the sand and we had to do it several times. We finally got it, we controlled it, and I finally started to breathe again.”
The healthy rivalry between the two schools made the victory all the more disheartening for Kaneland.
After a tightly-fought opening game loss, the Knights (12-7) were mostly in control for the remainder of Games 2 and 3, looking like they would coast to the match win.
But seven consecutive points from Geneva (13-6), highlighted by three Buck kills and a block, squared the third game at 21-all.
The Knights took a brief 22-21 lead before Buck and Jess Wicinski kills put the Vikings back in front. A Buck ace and a Kaneland unforced error completed the improbable Geneva comeback.
“It was really intense and I was kind of worried when we were down six or seven points,” Buck said. “We fell apart there for a while because of a lack of communication, but we got back together as a team and pulled it out. Kaneland is our rivals, so pulling this out feels really good.”
The Knights seized control in Game 3 thanks in part to its big front line, which helped alter a number of Geneva offensive possessions.
The Knights’ size provided more time in its own offensive zone to set up plays. The end results were a number of clean kills for Lyndi Scholl and Ellie Dunn. Both players finished with 10 kills.
A strong overall performance added to Kaneland’s frustration.
“This wasn’t consistent with our program, but every once in a while we get that spat where you have to learn how to finish matches, especially when you’re up, 21-14,” Kaneland coach Todd Weimer said. “The girls jumping and the boys [in the stands] twirling their shirts creates an environment where you mentally feel like you’re drowning. That’s a big momentum pusher when you have a crowd behind you. It was tough to talk to my team because they know they had that win.”
The Knights’ dominance in the middle stages of the match was buoyed by limiting Buck’s offensive chances. The usually consistent senior was held without a kill in Game 2 before coming on strong with five in the third.
Buck’s importance to Geneva’s fortunes wasn’t lost on Johnsen.
“She’s a pretty big gun for us. She gets them when you need them sometimes and that’s a pretty big thing to have,” Johnsen said. “I feel pretty confident when I see the ball go in her direction. She came up with some nice plays tonight.”