Geneva girls basketball players and their posse invaded the Wheaton North court Thursday night, shouting and posing with the program’s sixth straight regional plaque.
The Vikings nudged the host Falcons aside after winning by 12, their 11th consecutive victory – a far cry from a month ago.
Geneva last lost to Champaign St. Thomas More in the Willowbrook Shooutout on Jan. 18, less than 24 hours after allowing Batavia’s Liza Fruendt to strike for a school-record 51 points in a home defeat.
While Fruendt will be in the same building when the Vikings face Wheaton Warrenville South in the opening 4A Addison Trail Sectional semifinal tonight, Geneva views itself in a far different light. All it took was time.
“One thing I think we’re very known for is when it’s on the line, that’s when we really step up,” senior guard Michaela Loebel said.
Geneva’s streak and late-season Batavia slip-ups allowed the Vikings (23-5) to grab a share of the conference title.
Although the Bulldogs played in the UEC championship crossover on the strength of their regular-season sweep of the Vikings, Geneva was content to exhale and prepare for a possible third encounter.
Should Batavia (20-9) defeat Downers Grove North (26-2) tonight after a potential Geneva victory, the longtime rivals would meet for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Thursday.
The Vikings know that’s a tall order. Wheaton Warrenville South (28-3) holds the top sectional seed and has eliminated Geneva in the sectional semifinals the past two seasons.
“We’re going to be ready for [tonight],” Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. “We’ve got some history with them, and these kids want it. They want it bad. So it should be a good game.”
The Tigers scored the game’s first 16 points en route to winning last season’s meeting, 62-53, exactly the kind of skittish start the Vikings have avoided down the stretch and in the postseason.
“We usually have a lot of energy, but I mean, these games are so important that just everything counts,” junior forward Janie McCloughan said. “Our bench is so great and everyone’s just so excited and so pumped.”
Geneva needed its reserves in the Wheaton North game after three starters each picked up three fouls by halftime.
Junior guard Courtney Reynolds provided a spark from distance, Madeline Dunn lent sound play in the frontcourt and Loebel looked like the dynamic player she was before knee injuries sidelined her for most of the past two seasons.
Her 12 points trailed only McCloughan (20) and freshman post Grace Loberg (13), who missed the regional semifinal with an ankle sprain suffered during a club volleyball tournament. A Nebraska soccer recruit, Loebel has played to the limits of her stamina upon returning.
“She is such a hard worker, and she’s so talented,” McCloughan said. “It’s huge for her to come back.”
Geneva missed Loebel in last season’s playoffs and also were without Loberg, an eighth-grader at the time.
Meadows promoted Loberg from the sophomore team after Loebel was injured in December. Loberg since has taken quickly to the plays, lineup and Geneva’s overall vibe.
“Just keep bringing energy. Keep getting more excited for every game,” Loberg said. “Because we know any game can be our last from here on out.”