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Druley: Cougars catch their bearings

A 1,030-mile road trip from Geneva to Bowling Green (Ky.) to Dayton (Ohio) to Geneva figures to acquaint the Cougars with the midwest on their longest bus ride of the season.

There might have been a better time than the present for the six-game sojourn that began Monday, however. Players had just started to grow acclimated to their new surroundings by the end of a 4-2 homestand against Fort Wayne and Lake County.

“They’re settled in to their host families, and I think almost all of them have rides and vehicles, which makes for an easier transition, you know,” manager Mark Johnson said. “It’s difficult when you’re always relying on people for rides and don’t know where you’re staying and things like that.

“I think they’re getting settled in and they’re a pretty close-knit group as far as a team. That’s fun to be around. They work good together.”

One off-field collaboration plays over the Fifth Third Bank Ballpark video system at the end of every home game. Players flash through with filmed messages thanking the various communities who support the club.

Catcher Cael Brockmeyer and infielders Jordan Hankins, Daniel Lockhart and Jacob Rogers room together in Oswego, but it might be awhile before the quartet salutes that city’s chamber of commerce.

“By the time we get home, we’re pretty much tired enough that we’re staying in,” Brockmeyer said. “Play video games, watch movies and stuff.”

‘Building the energy:’ The race for the Upstate Eight Conference River Division boys volleyball title, which begins this week, consists of five matches.

Players and coaches stress its unpredictability each spring, but Geneva may just possess the right intangible for the task.

“It’s just the belief. The belief factor,” Vikings senior libero Brandon Navigato said. “This team never gives up. We’re always in the game, we’re always fighting, you know. A quick block kill by [Chris] Parrilli or a quick kill by [Nicholas] Buseski or a nice run by [Sam] Wolfkuhle, I mean, and we’re right back in it.

“Everyone’s building the energy. We’ve got a nice bench to really keep us in it, and we’re never out of a game, and that’s why this team is really special.”

Navigato, Parrilli and Justin Durante are coach KC Johnsen’s only seniors. Geneva placed third at Saturday’s St. Charles East Invitational, which the host Saints won.

“We’re building through the bottom. … A lot of youth, a lot of fountain of youth that’s coming through and we’re jelling nice,” Navigato said. “Really nice.”

Spartans climb: Robert Smith of St. Charles collected 131 assists during Saturday’s Glenbard East Spikefest, helping St. Francis to a fifth-place finish.

The tournament kicks off a busy upcoming stretch for the Spartans, including Thursday’s home match against East.

“The guys are ready to go here,” St. Francis coach Mike Lynch said. “They’ve worked real hard. They want to be playing games and not practicing so much now.”

• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.

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