Whether it is has been competing in the Western Sun Conference or, more recently, the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, the Geneva girls basketball program has owned its conference opposition most of this decade.
Other than a short-lived Batavia uprising in the 2007-08 season, the Vikings haven’t just won conference titles, they’ve dominated in a way that few programs in the area have, in any sport.
Less than a month into this season, it’s apparent another conference title won’t come quite as easily to Geneva this season.
Geneva narrowly fended off Batavia in a home game last week, then fell in an overtime thriller on Thursday at St. Charles East. Batavia, East and an improving Streamwood team all figure to provide the Vikings serious competition as the race unfolds, with the Saints having the benefit of a win under their belt in the first head-to-head meeting with Geneva.
In fairness to the Vikings, Geneva still would be considered a clear favorite in the UEC River if not for a season-ending injury to lead guard Michaela Loebel, but there’s nothing fair about injuries, as coach Sarah Meadows’ program can certainly attest after a rash of ACL injuries to key players the past few seasons.
The Vikings still have plenty of quality players to work with, but are dealing with a stronger conference this season.
Is there a more improved player in the conference than East’s Carly Pottle? Pottle, previously better known for her soccer exploits, is stringing together an excellent senior season, with her 25-point outburst in Thursday’s 81-75, overtime win against Geneva the latest sign that the Saints have plenty of scoring depth with which to supplement seasoned guards Paige Jordan and Amanda Hilton.
If there is a UEC River player as improved as Pottle, it’s probably Batavia’s Liza Fruendt. Fruendt has been impressive for an underclassman the past couple years but has elevated her game in striking fashion this season. Geneva saw that first hand when Fruendt torched the Vikings for 26 points in the 60-56 Geneva triumph last week.
Both the Geneva-Batavia and Geneva-East rematches later this season should be great to watch, considering the drama-rich first meetings. And the way things are looking, for the first time in quite awhile, the Vikings will need every win they can get if they intend to maintain conference supremacy.
Sterling sportsmanship: We won’t know until Monday whether the Mooseheart boys basketball team’s South Sudanese transfer students will be cleared to play by the IHSA Board of Directors, but the Ramblers have given themselves the best chance by saying and doing all the right things while under a bright media glare this week.
With cameras and tape recorders converging on Mooseheart administrators and players this week, the school seemed to make all the right moves on the public relations front, articulating its case clearly and with passion. That could matter when the board of directors votes on Mooseheart’s appeal of IHSA executive director Marty Hickman’s declaration last week that Akim Nyang, Makur Puou and Mangisto Deng be stripped of their basketball eligibility because of the IHSA’s interpretation that the boys were recruited to Mooseheart for athletic purposes.
The decision is out of their hands, but Nyang, Puou and Deng continued to represent their program with class Wednesday in what could have been a volatile, grudge match against Hinckley-Big Rock, whose AD contacted the IHSA to express concern about the agency that placed the trio at Mooseheart.
The big fellas were everything the IHSA could ask for in student-athletes – respectful of the fans, their opponents and the referees (Nyang was completely stoic when whistled for what appeared to be a bogus foul on a clean block; most players would have hopped up and down in a fit of melodrama).
The IHSA will do what it sees fit Monday, but my sense is the court of public opinion is squarely on Mooseheart’s side.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.