Geneva looks to make state semifinals behind veterans

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The road that Geneva’s girls basketball team took to reach the Class 4A Judson University Supersectional Monday is akin to local highways during this brutal winter.

It has been filled with potholes, not only this season, but for all four seasons the team’s seniors have endured.

Sidney Santos lost two full seasons with knee injuries, and then spent the majority of the past two seasons playing out of position at point guard thanks to knee injuries to Michaela Loebel, who worked her way back into the lineup in the postseason. Freshman sensation Grace Loberg didn’t get added to the varsity team until late December after her standout volleyball season and immediately became one of the area’s top impact players.

Now, they’re all in uniform together, winners of 13 straight games heading into Monday’s showdown with Rockford Boylan. The Vikings will be looking for the second trip to the state finals in program history.

“We’ve had the Geneva curse since I was a freshman,” Santos said. “We deserve this. We worked so hard to get her. It was a bumpy road, but so worth the while. I’m so proud of our team.”

Adding Loebel to the mix has made a huge impact the past two weeks. She has the speed to keep up with the other team’s best player. That was in evidence Thursday as she was the primary defender hounding Batavia star Liza Fruendt all night. Fruendt was held to 10 points in Geneva’s 48-24 win.

“I think it makes a world of difference for them,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. “It takes pressure off of Sidney. I think it’s huge for them. I thought the last couple of years coaching against them; she was kind of a spark for them. I’m not surprised that she’s eased in the past couple weeks and not that they kept winning, it’s like they’ve accelerated. I knew getting her back would be pretty big for them.”

Loebel knew there was a chance she would never play for Geneva again. She admitted that surgery was an option, and still may be one eventually. But she worked as hard as she could, scoring 12 points in the regional title game off the bench in her return and earning the starting nod against Batavia Thursday.

“I went through physical therapy and pushed my limits,” Loebel said. “My coaches and teammates would push me to try one more thing to see how it felt, and there were never any bad reactions. I’m just so happy that I was able to finish out with the best team I’ve ever had. It means so much. I know me, Sidney and Morgan (Seberger), we play AAU together and we’ve always dreamed of going as far as possible.”

The Vikings appear in their first Supersectional game since the freshman year of Loebel, Santos and Seberger Monday with a full roster and a winning streak in tow.

“We’ve got some veteran kids on the floor, they’ve been here,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “They understand how big of a game it is. I haven’t seen (Rockford Boylan) play. We have some game film on them and we’ll dissect the game film and come up with a plan and be ready to go on Monday.”

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