AURORA – Fatigued from a three-game semifinal loss to eventual Mizuno Cup champion Plainfield North, St. Charles East girls volleyball players glanced a few feet over and found sudden replenishment Saturday.
Geneva also had lost its gold bracket semifinal, creating a scintillating third-place match that offered a prelude to the Upstate Eight Conference River Division showdown between the Saints and Vikings in 10 days.
East's 19-25, 25-17, 25-22 victory came amid lapses from both sides. Players and coaches foresee a heightened atmosphere next time around, although it hardly was lacking on the Great Lakes Center SportCourt.
"We respect Geneva. They are a good team. They have a lot of great young players and stuff," Saints senior setter Carly Jimenez said. "But we knew that we could compete with them. We took a tough loss, so we just really came into it thinking that we want to beat them. We want to place as high as we can in the tournament, so that's what we did."
Both East (21-5) and Geneva (20-7) have one conference loss, no different from Tri-Cities counterparts St. Charles North and Batavia. It's possible the Oct. 22 Saints-Vikings match will decide the league champion.
Regardless, the Saints expect a key cog back in the lineup then, as senior middle Mikaela Mosquera is expected to return from a head injury by the end of next week.
Senior Ashley Bullock and sophomore Sydney Urban have been part of the rotation up top that has done Mosquera and the rest of the Saints proud.
"[Mosquera] should be back in the next week, so that will be a big factor," Jimenez said, "but it's almost reassuring to know that she can get better and she can take her time because we have other players that can fill positions."
Geneva lost to Muskego (Wis.) in two games in its semifinal. Vikings coach KC Johnsen joked about avoiding the usual pool play matchup with the Warrors but embraced a good test nonetheless.
Freshman Grace Loberg smacked 45 kills in five matches to pace Geneva, while Kelsey Wicinski contributed 148 digs.
"Overall, it wasn't a bad weekend," Johnsen said. "We made it to the top four, and this is a pretty good tournament. We're getting there."
Rosary, which has lost to both East and Geneva this season, finished fifth in the silver bracket, putting the Royals 13th in the 24-team field.
Breaking in its own core of freshmen, Rosary recovered from a loss to perennial power Benet in its bracket opener to defeat the East JV (25-12, 25-23) and Joliet Catholic (25-11, 25-18).
As with any weekend tournament, the Mizuno Cup challenged players' endurance. The Saints, who have lost just once in 10 matches since Sept. 19, proved to be game.
"I couldn't be more pleased with the way that they played this weekend," East coach Jennie Kull said. "Every single kid came off the bench at some point and made a difference, and that's why we've been successful, because we have to call on everybody."