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‘Smart’ Saints sweep Geneva, earn share of River crown

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ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East girls volleyball coach Jennie Kull tapped her heels on the floor after Tuesday’s match against Geneva, the most convenient way to knock on wood.

Kull was discussing her optimism surrounding the Saints’ late-season injury woes. Middle hitters Mikaela Mosquera (concussion) and Ashley Bullock again were sidelined against the Vikings, but East ultimately rendered their absences moot.

The key to the Saints’ 25-23, 25-20 sweep that clinched a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title with St. Charles North? East made the Vikings collectively mutter, “That’s smart,” instead of dwelling on its injuries with a pitying, “That smarts.”

“We’re not a huge, physical team, so we have to use what we have and be smart with the ball,” Saints junior libero Anne Hughes said. “Place it and not make those stupid errors.”

Hughes’ late ace along the first service zone landed just inside the left sideline, providing the Saints (28-6, 5-1) with one last leg up in the head games department.

East grabbed a 24-20 Game 2 lead on the play, part of a match-ending 5-0 run.

After Geneva’s Kyley Thompson tied the game at 20-all with a kill, the Vikings (22-8, 4-2) made four errors down the stretch, ending a shorter night than many expected.

Playing for third place at the Mizuno Cup on Oct. 12, the Saints defeated the Vikings in three games.

“We were flat tonight and kind of unemotional,” Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. “I don’t know. I think we’ll get it straightened out. … Wrong night and wrong team to have a bad day against, because they’re very solid and they play real smart, and we were off, and they really took advantage.”

East passed the ball well behind Hughes (26 digs) and Carly Jimenez (18 assists, 11 digs) as it responded to challenges from Geneva hitters Grace Loberg (11 kills) and Hannah Lanasa (six).

While Geneva libero Kelsey Wicinski (26 digs) combated East’s attack of Meagan Smith (seven kills) and Megan Schildmeyer (six), the Saints shined with their depth.

Kull credited unselfish Saints such as junior Alex Mazanke, who has not played middle since seventh grade but boosted East’s cause with two blocks and two kills.

“Everyone played together,” sophomore middle Sydney Urban said. “We’re so combined with each other on the team, and we have such good characteristics with each other, that we are able to push through and push through the games.”

Megan Cameron added 12 assists for Geneva, while Courtney Caruso had 11.

The Vikings and Saints could potentially meet again for the 4A Geneva Sectional championship.

Neither team wants to get ahead of itself, though, and instead will focus on looming postseason tuneups such as the Vikings’ trip to the Kaneland Spikefest on Saturday.

“We can play with everybody when we’re playing well,” Johnsen said.

On Tuesday, East took a less combative approach, content to share its hardware with rival North, which defeated the Saints in three games last month.

“You know, I’m glad that it happened in St. Charles,” Hughes said. “If it happened anywhere else, that would stink, but it was in St. Charles, so I’m happy for both of our teams.”

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