GENEVA – “Geneva, Illinois” and “Madison, Wisconsin” may share the same number of syllables, but Grace Loberg knows she still can count on a challenge in transitioning from the former city to the latter.
“It’s hard adjusting to a new schedule, new people, new coaches, new environment,” said Loberg, a recent Geneva High School graduate. “But, I mean, they’re very welcoming [at Wisconsin]."
Loberg committed to play collegiate women’s volleyball for the Badgers as a Geneva sophomore. Since then, there admittedly has been at least a small part of the 6-foot-2 outside hitter longing to suit up for Wisconsin.
Typically, it was a scarcely discernible part until her high school career ended. To watch Loberg excel for the Vikings girls volleyball and basketball teams – to an extent that has earned her recognition as Elburn Herald and Kane County Chronicle Female Athlete of the Year sponsored by St. Charles Bank & Trust for the fourth successive season – was to witness a commitment to excellence.
Loberg’s senior year concluded with she and Geneva on top, hoisting the IHSA Class 4A girls basketball state championship trophy in March. Loberg averaged 14 points and 10.9 rebounds per game and finished her basketball career with 1,516 points and a program-record 1,090 rebounds.
As one might expect given heavy recruiting interest that included Purdue, Michigan State, Illinois, Florida and Missouri, Loberg shined in volleyball, too. She contributed 374 kills and 241 digs in her final Geneva season to claim the school record in both categories with 1,313 and 820, respectively, helping the Vikings advance to a 4A supersectional.
“I loved high school. I had so many close friends and obviously so many good memories with both the volleyball team and basketball team,” Loberg said. “So, it does hurt to see that all come to an end and never be able to play at Geneva again or wear a Geneva jersey again. But at the same time, I feel like I’m ready for a change and ready to see what’s ahead.”
To be sure, the Vikings realize the legacy Loberg leaves behind.
“She works really hard. Harder than anyone I know,” girls basketball teammate Margaret Whitley said. “She’s very deserving of it.”
Loberg spent the summers following her freshman, sophomore and junior years fulfilling her commitment to her Batavia-based Fusion South club volleyball team and maintaining an active volunteering schedule that hardly takes a hiatus during the school year.
This summer brought a new horizon. Loberg traveled to Madison just days after her Geneva graduation to begin workouts with the Badgers, whose season begins with an Aug. 25 visit from Louisville.
“She’s waking up at 6:30 [a.m.] doing workouts,” said girls basketball teammate Stephanie Hart, who scored the championship-clinching basket against Edwardsville. “And that’s a lot to commit to and go leave all your friends for a full summer. So, she’s just incredible.”
Loberg sustained what she called a "super bad" sprained ankle during the early stages of summer, relegating her to spectator status when Fusion South traveled to Orlando, Fla., for club nationals in late June.
She saw no reason to sulk, however, working to keep up her conditioning during rehab. Of course, Loberg credits her winter sport for building her wind in the first place.
“Because basketball, it’s tiring running up and down the court,” she said. “And the older you get in volleyball, I feel like the longer the rallies go, so the more you need to be in shape and have more endurance. I think basketball has helped me a lot with that.”
As the next chapter in her life looms, Loberg is eager to encounter the Wisconsin experience with her trademark energy.
“I’ve been looking forward to going there for so long now that it’s just weird that it actually is here,” Loberg said. “It has been everything that I’ve expected it to be. I’m excited to see all my other friends go and see them succeed in college, also. It’ll be fun.”