ST. CHARLES – Moments after hollering and mugging for photos under a banner that read “2013 conference champs,” St. Charles North boys volleyball players admitted their feat was not yet totally their own.
By rule, a victory against Streamwood or a Geneva loss to Elgin next week would give North the outright Upstate Eight Conference River Division title. Since both U-46 programs are struggling, North’s 25-15, 25-18 sweep of the Vikings on Tuesday night only felt like a clincher.
“We’re a confident team,” North Stars senior libero Ryan Dal Degan said. “Not to dispel anything that Geneva has done this year, they’ve had a great season. But here at home, we think we can beat anybody.
“Did I think it was going to be this easy? Probably not, definitely [not] in a conference match of two 3-0 teams coming in. But like I said, we feel like we can beat anybody, and we feel like we can do that every time.”
North (21-4, 4-0 UEC River) earned at least a share of its first league crown since 2011 by keeping defending co-champ Geneva (18-6, 3-1) out of sorts and out of system.
Using his patented floater, Dal Degan served 10 straight points in Game 2 as the North Stars built a 15-2 lead. Following zone reads from coach Todd Weimer – a tweak from earlier in the season, when Dal Degan “wasn’t focusing on my spots and just serving” – he helped North temporarily pull away.
Vikings libero Brandon Navigato followed with his own 10-0 run thanks to a quick, choppy gimmick serve, pushing Geneva to within 16-13. The drama ended there, however, as North closed out an energetic net effort that saw Jack Harbaugh, Zach Ziesmer, Jake Hamilton and Co. limit top Vikings hitters Mason Stierwalt and Dominic Bondi to three combined kills.
“We knew it was going to be a big match and we knew we had to come out with intensity,” North senior outside hitter Kevin Beach said. “And we did just that.”
Although Beach (11 kills) and Jonathan Orech (six) converted their share of Pat Misiewicz’s 25 assists, North also benefited from a series of Geneva errors.
Apart from Navigato, who has excelled in switching deliveries this season, the Vikings struggled for consistency from the service line. Coach K.C. Johnsen conceded the North Stars “definitely were playing at a higher level” than his club, which never led but countered with Chris Parrilli’s seven kills.
Geneva debuted its boys volleyball program three seasons ago and made swift strides that included a share of the conference title with St. Charles East last spring.
“We’re really focused this year on getting past that being the new kid on the block,” Johnsen said. “I mean, we expect to play a little better than we did tonight.”
A rematch between the schools is possible. Should North and Geneva both win postseason openers, the Vikings would have home-court advantage in a potential regional final.
A plaque – not a banner – would be at stake then.
“Focus on Streamwood next and then we’ll worry about [the postseason] afterwards,” Beach said. “Conference, it’s not enough. This is just the beginning.”