GENEVA – Geneva right-side hitter Ally Barrett began many of her answers with the aw-shucks opener “I just kind of …” after Tuesday’s match against St. Charles North.
Like outside hitter Grace Loberg, Barrett is a freshman, a fact the Vikings’ full-throat student section proudly points out whenever the opportunity arises.
Barrett shrugged about extending her 6-foot-2 frame to “just kind of” stand up to North’s attack. Ditto for the way she “just kind of” elevated to slam an errant North Stars pass to the ground for the final point.
With that, Geneva capped a 25-22, 17-25, 26-24 victory that firmly placed the team in the thick of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race. No “just kind of” about that one.
“Afterward, everyone just ran onto the court and everyone was screaming,” Barrett said. “It was a great thing.”
Geneva (14-5, 2-1 UEC River) avoided a repeat of last week against Batavia, when the Vikings won the first game but lost the match in three.
North (15-3, 2-1), which suddenly finds itself on a three-match losing streak after a stellar start, did not lead until grabbing an 11-10 advantage in Game 2.
North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins neglected to pass on what she viewed as the difference.
“Just ball control. We had a lot of mishandling balls and communication errors, which is unlike us,” Hawkins said. “And I just think we didn’t come out as fired up as they could have and should have been. We put ourselves in that situation, and they took advantage of it and really got the momentum going.”
Still, the North Stars were in position to remain unbeaten in league play, leading as late as 19-18 in the third game. Northern Illinois-bound senior outside hitter Taylor Krage collected 16 kills, one shy of Loberg’s match-high total.
Alex Seavey (20 digs) helped get the ball to North’s Taryn Dal Degan (19 assists) and Sydney Wohlert (15), yet Geneva still found itself emerging with the win.
After Claire Anderson and Sophia DuVall’s block of Loberg drew North to within 24-23 and a would-be block of Krage went out of bounds, the Vikings called timeout. A team that has just three seniors – including Courtney Caruso (18 assists) and hobbled middle Taylor Marmitt (foot) – erupted shortly after its young guns starred again.
Friends and teammates since fourth grade, Loberg and Barrett collected the final two kills of the night.
“I feel like me and Grace are really holding our own,” Barrett said.
Vikings coach KC Johnsen still calls this group “terribly young,” but knows that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Citing the crowd and, naturally, the outcome, he described Tuesday’s match as “fun all the way around.”
Kelsey Wicinski bested last week’s sprawling effort against Batavia with 49 digs, Megan Cameron dished 14 assists and Hannah Lanasa had seven kills.
All three are juniors, and eager to watch Barrett, Loberg and company grow.
“It helps us a little bit, I guess, because we’re getting used to each other and we’ll be the same team next year,” Lanasa said. “We’re only losing a couple seniors, so we’re hoping it’ll help us next year, too.”
Of course, she adds, it’s still September, and the Vikings have eyes on big accomplishments in 2013, too.
On Tuesday, they just kind of jumped into the conference mix. It’s a fun place to start.