The path to the state tournament for Geneva was not an easy one, and a bad weekend in mid-January sent a jolt through the team.
A 75-67 home loss on Jan. 17 to Batavia, a game which saw Batavia star Liza Fruendt explode for 51 points to complete a regular-season sweep of the Vikings, was followed the next day at the McDonald’s Shootout, a 65-57 loss to downstate power St. Thomas More.
That weekend left the Vikings at 12-5 and seemingly out of the Upstate Eight River race.
“They might have gotten mad after we lost those two games in a row,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said.
As it turned out, the Vikings haven’t lost since. They rallied to claim a share of the UEC River title. They won a regional title and then beat Wheaton Warrenville South, the team that knocked them out of the postseason the past two years. They then won a sectional title, against Batavia no less, and advanced to state for the second time in program history.
The winning streak stands at 14 games as the Vikings prepare to face Rolling Meadows in the Class 4A semifinals Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Bloomington.
“I think the biggest thing about this year is the fact that our team can hold it together,” senior Sidney Santos said. “We have each other’s backs. It is truly a team atmosphere, all of us together. We’re so ready. This has been our dream for so long, and we’re so happy it came true.”
After cruising to the Wheaton North Regional title, the specter of top-seeded Wheaton Warrenville South loomed. When the Vikings survived a 55-54 win to finally knock the Tigers off, the Vikings knew they had something special going.
“We never had doubts, we knew we could do it,” junior Abby Novak said. “We knew we were capable of it. We had the talent. [The WWS win] was a big weight off our shoulders. It was awesome. From then on, it was, let’s play Geneva ball.”
Geneva won the sectional title in memorable fashion, avenging the two losses to Batavia during the regular season with a 48-24 shocker. A 19-point win over Boylan Monday sent them back to state.
As expected, the field is loaded. Rolling Meadows, last year’s Class 4A runner-up, is 28-4 and features first-team Associated Press All-State selection Jackie Kemph. The Saint Louis recruit is the Mustangs’ point guard, averaging 21.2 points per game with 265 assists in 32 games. Alexis Glasgow [Northwestern recruit, averaging 16.5 points per game] and Jenny Vliet [Saint Louis recruit averaging 14.4 points per game] were named to the All-State honorable mention list.
The other semifinal pits two of the best teams in the state, Marian Catholic and Whitney Young.
“Every position they have a nice skill player,” Meadows said. “I feel like they are kind of set up like us. They have every piece that we have. I think we will be taller than them. They all really know how to play together. They were in the championship game last year and got beat, so they are ready to go. We’re coming in focused and we’re coming downstate to win, not just participate.”