ADDISON – Geneva girls volleyball coach KC Johnsen only needs one hand to count the number of freshman starters he’s had in his 13 seasons as coach.
With the Vikings’ season on the line Thursday, two of those five were on the floor as Geneva moved on with a 20-25, 25-22, 25-20 win over rival Batavia to capture the IHSA Class 4A Addison Trail Regional Championship.
After dropping Game 1, Geneva freshmen Ally Barrett and Grace Loberg, both outside hitters, helped the Vikings (27-9) out of a 22-20 hole in Game 2 with four of the Vikings’ final five points. The come-from-behind win in Game 2 carried over to Game 3 as the Vikings jumped out to 16-8 lead and held on to advance to Tuesday’s Geneva Sectional semifinals, where they will play top-seeded Glenbard West, a 25-21, 25-13 winner against Schaumburg.
Geneva’s youthful front line, which also includes key sophomore reserve Kyley Thompson, is fortified by juniors Hannah Lanasa and Kelsey Wicinski and senior Taylor Marmitt.
“I get nervous, but my teammates are always behind me 100 percent,” Loberg said. “Whenever I mess up, they are always right there to pick me right back up. They have been great. I was extremely nervous in Game 2 [trailing 22-20] but all of the older girls picked it up and helped us push through.”
It looked as if Batavia (20-17) would pull off the two-game victory, breaking a 20-20 tie in Game 2 as Katelynn Fegan and Heather Meyer each had kills to give the Bulldogs a slim cushion.
Meyer’s soft kill forced a Geneva timeout, where the Vikings regrouped, using a pair of Batavia unforced errors and a Marmitt kill to pull ahead, 23-22.
With the game on the line, it was Loberg who came up big, banging home a pair of kills to force a Game 3.
Having captured the momentum, Geneva rattled off seven of the first eight points in Game 3 as the Vikings received points from Megan Cameron, Loberg and Thompson.
Trailing 18-10, Batavia used three unforced errors in a row and a block from Anna Clausen to get back into the game at 18-15. A pair of net violations pulled the Bulldogs within 23-20, but they would get no closer as libero Wicinski linked up with Lanasa and Loberg to end the match.
Wicinski was effusive in praising her young teammates, helping them stay calm during such a tight match.
“They have really stepped up and started coming up big on the court,” Wicinski said. “We need to keep comforting them though if they messed up and tell them to shake it off and keep going. We just had to stay within ourselves, get a pass and get a good swing, and we did.”
While Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne was complimentary of Geneva’s victory, she felt it was the Bulldogs’ match to win.
“You have to credit Geneva, they attacked the ball and kept hanging in there,” Trippi-Payne said. “In Game 2, we had our opportunities. We have a drill that we do called ‘22-20,’ that we do in practice. We just made a few defensive mistakes, and sometimes that happens.”
The Vikings were led by Loberg and Barrett, who had 14 and 11 kills, respectively.