ST. CHARLES – Geneva girls volleyball players quickly discovered something in cramming for Saturday's Class 4A St. Charles East Supersectional against New Trier.
The Trevians are teeming with NCAA Division I recruits.
Two middles, two defensive specialists and a setter all have committed to play major college volleyball. A right-side is a Northwestern softball recruit, too.
Largely ignoring their opponents' pedigree, the Vikings challenged New Trier throughout the night, but the Trevians ultimately prevailed with a 25-19, 25-21 sweep that gave the program a chance to build on last season's runner-up finish.
"They're an amazing team," Geneva senior middle Taylor Marmitt said. "Their setter's so good. All their hitters. Their middles are good, their outsides were smart. Everything about them. They played their game tonight."
Geneva (29-10) sensed it could reach this postseason round – and ideally beyond – for some time, even though the Vikings were a mere 48 hours removed from capturing the program's first sectional title.
Just three seniors – Marmitt, setter Courtney Caruso and reserve defensive specialist Hailee Hilmer – will graduate. Only one of the Vikings' four primary hitters is a junior, and 6-foot-2 freshmen Ally Barrett and Grace Loberg embarked on breakthrough debuts from the time coach KC Johnsen inserted them in the lineup to begin the season.
While an overflow student section routinely reminded the Trevians (31-3) of Barrett and Loberg's grade level, the novelty of the speedy varsity game wore off well before the persistent "SHE'S A FRESHMAN!" chants did.
"I was very proud of our kids that they didn't use that as a crutch all year – we're young. And they didn't get caught up in thinking, 'Well, next year, we're going to be great,' " Johnsen said. "They wanted to win today and keep playing."
New Trier countered Geneva's attack of Loberg (five kills), Barrett (three) and Hannah Lanasa (three) with seven kills apiece from Taylor Tashima and Abbey Boyd and five from Haley Fauntleroy.
Tashima, a Northwestern-bound setter, earned plenty of respect from the Vikings, who had scouted a versatile skill set that included crafty sets from the back row and quick kill attempts on the second hit.
While Tashima agreed experience helped the Trevians, who boast nine seniors, she didn't see it as an absolute turning point. The Vikings climbed within 21-17 and 23-19 in the opening game and were within 20-19 after a Trevians error in Game 2, getting better touches and handling New Trier's middles.
"If you're starting on varsity, you're starting on varsity for a reason," Tashima said. "I don't think age really means anything when you're playing high school."
The result was hardly immaterial to both sides, but, much as it did after last season's Larkin Sectional final loss to Glenbard West, the Vikings' student section saluted players on the court afterward.
The soft-spoken Johnsen still had a postgame huddle assembled when the group let fly with one last "LET'S GO VIKINGS!" chant.
"Our fans kept us alive this season," said Marmitt, who had two blocks. "I'm so thankful for them. We've never had a crowd like that. They kept us going when we were down and I can't thank them enough."
Kelsey Wicinski delivered 15 digs while Caruso (six assists) and Megan Cameron (five) steered the offense.
"I'm proud of our season and I'm proud of our effort. That's a team that really could have knocked us back on our heels, shut us down, and they didn't really do that," Johnsen said. "That's a pretty good accomplishment."
Geneva certainly has its sights set on more to come.