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Geneva, North boys volleyball work kinks out at tournament

AURORA – Although one of its members still was spring breaking in Hawaii – aloha, Justin Durante – the Geneva boys volleyball team welcomed the sight of an all-but-regular lineup Saturday.

The Vikings' seventh-place finish in the 12-team West Aurora Invitational certainly offered encouragement about things to come.

"Definitely exciting," Geneva senior libero Brandon Navigato said. "We've been ready for this for awhile. We've gone through alot. … We've gotten ready, gotten down to business over these last couple weeks of practice and we're ready to roll for conference."

Geneva closed the day with a 21-25, 25-13, 25-19 victory against Oswego in the silver bracket consolation match. Competing for the gold bracket consolation title on an adjacent fieldhouse court, St. Charles North finished fourth after a 25-19, 25-10 loss to Schaumburg.

Eight days removed from pushing Schaumburg in a three-game road loss, North (3-3) shuffled its lineup in this match.

After graduating the bulk of last year's IHSA third-place state tournament finisher, any experience for the newbies is valuable currency.

"I played a little outside, I played a little right side, I played everywhere," varsity newcomer Jack Kolodziej said. "I got a taste for varsity, and I think it's going to really help us as a team going on and moving forward."

North played without senior setter Jeff Rollins, who has spent spring break in Germany with the SCN Jazz Workshop. A violinist and trombonist who was accepted into the University of Illinois' music program this week, Rollins' presence lends harmony in his more physically exerting extracurricular, too.

"Really, with the setter, it's like your quarterback," North Stars coach Todd Weimer said. "Who will you do better with: Jay Cutler or the backup? I would think Cutler, right?"

Ben Connor and Johnny Davern filled in at the position as their coach ultimately looked at the more sunny side of Rollins' absence – which extends into Monday and Tuesday's road matches against Maine South and Neuqua Valley, respectively.

"We're young and we're improving," Weimer said, "but you'd rather see these mistakes being made now than later or during regionals."

Although their respective pools were matched up against one another in the bracket play semifinals, the North Stars and Vikings missed playing one another by virtue of different finishes.

North won its pool. Geneva challenged Joliet West – which eventually handled North in a gold semifinal 24-26, 25-22, 25-16 – en route to taking second in its pool. All pool play matches were two games to 25, with tiebreakers determined by total points.

"Just fast, quick games," Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. "Lots of blocks by both teams, lots of errors by both teams. There weren't a lot of long volleys."

The goal remains to stretch everything out – skills, points, confidence.

Nic Cook (52 digs), Connor (44 assists) and Brendan Donlevy (14 kills) paced North.

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