Annie Seitelman’s face was flush with emotion following a close call in her team’s first playoff match Tuesday.
Needless to say, she was breathing easier Thursday.
“Woooo,” Geneva’s volleyball coach exhaled with a relaxed grin. “I don’t think my blood pressure rose as high this match.”
In a match pitting conference co-champs from the DuPage Valley and Upstate Eight River, Seitelman’s fourth-seeded Vikings made surprisingly short work of sixth-seeded Naperville North 25-16, 25-20 to win the Class 4A Geneva Regional.
Geneva (30-7), advances to meet top-seeded Benet on Tuesday at Bartlett, and does so feeling much better about itself.
“We came into practice not satisfied at all with what happened against Metea,” said Geneva sophomore Grace Loberg, who had nine kills. “We couldn’t let people watch us play like that again and think we’re going to be an easy opponent.”
Aggressive Geneva serving dictated the terms of this match.
Aces by Kelsey Wicinski and Loberg keyed a 10-2 spurt in Game 1 that turned a 6-6 tie into a commanding 16-8 lead. Loberg also had three kills during that stretch. Just as important the Vikings had Naperville North (26-10) out of system and unable to get its big hitters good opportunities.
“We served a lot during practice on Wednesday, “Loberg said. “We knew their middles were the main part of their team.”
Indeed Naperville North, as much as any team, is best when it runs its offense through middles Megan Wernette and Caitlin Miller.
Wernette had four kills, but the Huskies’ hiccups to get the first pass on point stalled their attack.
“First set, our serve receive wasn’t as strong,” North coach Jennifer Urban said. “Our hitters were taking swings from 10 feet off the net. That’s a difficult position to be in as a pin hitter and we weren’t able to get our middles involved.”
Similarly in Game 2, Geneva broke away from a close start. Allyson Barrett’s big hit after a long rally and Loberg’s monster smash off a North free ball sparked a 7-1 rally that put the Vikings in the driver’s seat up 14-6.
It got to 18-8 before North mounted a late rally, a pair of Jenna LaCorte aces and a couple Geneva errors drawing the Huskies within 22-19.
A North error followed, and at match point, Loberg rejected LaCorte’s attempt at the net.
LaCorte had four kills, and fellow Huskies seniors Emily Kwak and Jillian Schulte added 10 assists and six digs.
“Our middles are something we’ve thrived off all season,” Urban said. “We depend on them to score for us. When we’re not in system it makes it really difficult.”
Barrett and Kyley Thompson each had three kills, Mikayla Lanasa 11 assists and Wicinski seven digs for Geneva, back in the sectional semifinals after winning the program’s first sectional last year.
Loberg and Geneva hasn’t faced Benet before, but watched the Redwings at Mizuno Cup. Loberg looks forward to the challenge.
“We’re excited,” Loberg said. “We’re ready to take them on, ready for whatever.”