Geneva presumed it would look more like a well-oiled machine than a team that was just putting the keys into the ignition during Wednesday’s DuKane Conference meet against Batavia.
A teachers' strike cost the Vikings from competing in the DeKalb Invitational and the Conant Invitational last weekend, and forced the postponement of a meet against Lake Park.
Undoubtedly rusty from missing out on those three competitions and limited chances to practice, the Vikings still did enough to send the Bulldogs home with a 131.7 to 130.7 loss.
“It was awfully close, but at least we get the conference point,” Geneva senior Grace De Vita said. “That’s what we were going for. It’s been pretty hard during the beginning of the season so we’re just getting back into the swing of things. I know the more meets we have, the better we’ll get.”
De Vita and Batavia junior Taylor Novotny were the only gymnasts who contributed to their team score in all four events. They finished 1-2 in the all-around, 33.6 to 32.55. Geneva sophomore Olivia Takesue was the only other all-arounder with a 32.3.
“Those other meets would’ve been helpful for us to get used to doing our routines again,” Takesue said. “But there’s nothing we can do about it. It’ll just take us a little longer and they were just invites anyway so we’ll just have to practice more.”
The Vikings didn’t get out of a regional last season and lost a good group of talented gymnasts to graduation, but they also returned a lot and welcome some solid newcomers.
De Vita, Takesue and sophomore Kathryn Wendt are the team’s top all-arounders, but with seniors Lindsay King and Sophia Hostasa, junior Caitlin Cook and freshmen Kate Nitsche and Katie Beitzel, among others, the team is deep with talent and should do well.
“We were preparing and preparing and all of a sudden it abruptly stopped and we missed three meets,” Vikings coach Kim Hostman said. “That’s tough. We’re excited now to be back in school and to get going with the season. We’re focused on getting better and working on new skills and I’m excited about their potential. It should be a good season.”
King’s 8.9 on vault was one of the night’s memorable moments. King barely competed last year due to a dislocated elbow.
“I’m so excited to be back,” she said. “My vault was very good. I probably landed my best one so I was really excited about that.”
King, Hostasa and Nitschke had counting team scores on two events each while Wendt, Cook and Beitzel did so in one event apiece.
Batavia posted a season-high score in its fourth meet of the winter, but multiple falls on beam really hurt.
“The beam doesn’t really worry me because we can go back and fix those falls,” Bulldogs coach Taryn Boyce said. “Beam is very nerve-wracking and I don’t want to say it’s my least favorite event, but we had all those falls.”
If only senior Jessica Nena would’ve competed varsity instead of JV and substituted her 8.5 score for Batavia’s fourth score of 6.65 from junior Olivia Bartolotta, it would’ve lifted Batavia to 132.55 points and the win.
“I think what’s rough is when you have as good of a meet as they had and you hit and hit and hit and then you get to beam,” Boyce said.“The pressure just became that much more intensified.”
Batavia’s prized freshmen class was strong as Natalie Hayden contributed scores on bar and beam, Jackie Nelson took second on floor with an 8.75 to Bartolotta’s 8.85 and Sydney Balitewicz won vault with a 9.15, just ahead of sophomore teammate Haley Salus’ 9.05.
“Our team has been really good with supporting each other and figuring things out as we get through these meets,” Balitewicz said. “My tsuk [vault] has been really good this year. I had a little bumpy road the last meet, but tonight was good.”
Salus called her vault “the best one I’ve done this season”and believes the Bulldogs are heading in the right direction.
“I’m trying to do a bit of everything to figure out what my strengths and weaknesses are so I can help the team best,” she said. “I think I had a good meet and helped the team.”
Boyce used 10 gymnasts and eight of them added to the team total.