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Promise-filled season starts well for Geneva

Geneva's Grace Loberg attempts a kill Tuesday as the host Vikings won their season opener against Rosary, 25-18, 25-21.
Geneva's Grace Loberg attempts a kill Tuesday as the host Vikings won their season opener against Rosary, 25-18, 25-21.

GENEVA – Green Day's "Good Riddance" blared over the sound system Tuesday as Geneva and Rosary girls volleyball players exhaled through the first timeout of the season.

Don't let the song's title or retrospective lyrics fool you. The visiting Royals hardly are disbanding after absorbing a 25-18, 25-21 sweep, nor are the Vikings regarding the result as anything but a strong start.

But don't let the DJ stray too far, either. "Good Riddance" would make ideal highlight video accompaniment if the Vikings were to deliver on the promise swirling around them. The core of last season's Class 4A supersectional qualifier returns, eyeing deeper postseason advancement.

"We have really high goals for this season, and we've been working really hard to achieve them," Vikings sophomore outside hitter Ally Barrett said, "because we want to do just as well or hopefully better than we did last year. But we know it's going to be really hard. It's not going to be easy to get back to where we were last year."

One of the keys to any sustained Geneva success, a balanced attack, helped the Vikings throughout the night.

While Wisconsin-bound sophomore outside hitter Grace Loberg (eight kills) sparked the offense – including separate late kills that provided five-point leads in both games – Barrett and senior Hannah Lanasa weren't far behind.

Both smacked six kills in the match, delighting first-year coach Annie Seitelman as setters Mikayla Lanasa (14 assists) and Megan Cameron (nine) also shined in the Vikings' 6-2 scheme.

"We've got a lot of versatility and a lot of big hitters for us, so it's nice that Grace doesn't have to carry that load and that we can kind of distribute the offense a little bit more evenly," Seitelman said. "Give other kids opportunities."

That's Rosary's goal, and it began clicking in the second set.

With setters Grace Konovodoff and Julia Gauthier (eight assists apiece) finding middles such as Meegan Hart and Michaela Ping with more passes, the Royals' outsides enjoyed more room to maneuver.

Sophomores Erin Burke and Molly Curley started at outside Tuesday, and have meshed well on a team with just four seniors.

"It was good," said Hart, a sophomore and St. Charles resident who plays club ball on Batavia-based Fusion South with several Vikings. "At times, we were a little nervous, but I think for the first game, it was pretty good."

In 2013, Geneva excelled with a similarly thin senior class. Another sophomore staple for Rosary, libero Martha Konovodoff (three digs) brings the lineup further consistency.

Both sides dealt with communication breakdowns, but later acknowledged that's to be expected in August. Ideally, it's a non-issue within a few weeks.

"I think they're comfortable with each other, they're just not comfortable on the court right now," Royals coach Rachel Hartmann said. "But they're going to be good, you know. I don't know how good, but this is at least a helping point for us, the coaching staff, to say, 'OK, we've just got to get you guys more confident, and I think serving more aggressively.' I think those are the two things."

Loberg (10 digs) and Kelsey Wicinski (six) provided support as Rosary's attack got better acclimated.

The theme song of the night's second timeout, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger," matched the growing urgency, as the Vikings can attest.

With Seitelman admittedly striving to bring more energy than her traditionally even-keeled predecessor, K.C. Johnsen, Geneva players quickly have taken notice.

"It's a lot different than last year. It's a lot more intense," Barrett said. "But we are definitely learning a lot and she's going to help us reach where we need to go, and she's going to help us get there."

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