KC Johnsen has the type of team any coach would want -- one that makes his life easier.
"This is a very bright group of kids," Johnsen said. "They solve problems well. I just hang out and have fun."
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Johnsen was indeed having fun again Tuesday night at St. Charles North where he watched his Vikings rally from a 22-17 deficit in Game 2 for a 25-22, 25-23 victory to stay perfect in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division.
St. Charles North (10-7, 1-2) looked on its way to forcing a deciding third game when Emily Belz fired an ace for a 5-point lead and only three points to go.
Geneva (11-6, 3-0) began its comeback on Sammy Gola's assist to Renner Burns. Gola found Hannah Buck on the next point.
Five-foot-5 Kelsey Wicinski came up with a well-placed shot from the back row that the North Stars couldn't handle and Geneva was within 22-21. A pair of North Star hitting errors gave Geneva the lead for good, and the match ended on the North Stars' seventh hitting error.
"They blocked, they played way better defense," St. Charles North interim coach Doug Roberts said. "That is kind of the hallmark of their program, great defense. We couldn't put it away."
Sophomore outside Hannah Lanasa helped the Vikings get off to a good start with 6 of her team-high 11 kills in Game 1.
"I just kept tipping and hitting them," Lanasa said. "You have to be aggressive to win. That is the No. 1 thing. You have to be confident."
The teams battled through 9 ties and 5 lead changes in the first game, the final one at 22-22 when Belz found Alex Stone in the middle for a kill. Lanasa and Buck traded kills on the final three points to complete Geneva's win.
"We talked a lot more, we worked on covering the middle a lot," Lanasa said. "Tipping in the deep corner was a huge thing for us. We got plenty of kills on that."
Stone led the North Stars with 8 kills and 3 blocks, Irena Grauzinis had 7 kills, Taylor Krage and Claire Anderson both added 5 kills, Alex Busch 13 digs and Belz 19 assists.
"I think we made it a big point as a team to kind of pick up our energy, our intensity after a poor showing at a tournament this weekend," Roberts said. "They brought that, they just couldn't finish."
As has been Geneva's formula, several Vikings played key roles in their win. Kelly Dalheim had 21 digs, Wicinski 7 digs, Buck 7 digs and 9 kills, Gola 11 assists and Nicole Schneider 10 assists.
Maddie Courter, Kelly Gordon and Taylor Marmitt combined for 10 blocks.
"You could see on our faces we got very determined (in Game 2)," Johnsen said. "You always like to see that. I thought North was playing much better in Game 2 so we had to pick it up."
Johnsen also praised his team's ball control.
"We bank on that, we have some of the best passers," Johnsen said. "We're not 6-foot-5. we need to pass well and we have some kids who can put the ball there."
Welcome Marklund: The North Stars got a little extra energy from a group of Marklund residents behind their bench Tuesday.
This is the second year that the North Stars volleyball program and Marklund -- an assisted living home for people with developmental disabilities -- have partnered. Two Sundays ago the varsity volleyball team visited Marklund and played softball and kickball with the residents and helped decorate some of the rooms.
The Marklund residents returned the favor by cheering the North Stars Tuesday.
"We would have loved to win for them, so to speak," Roberts said. "Their energy helped us out.
"It's just a neat tradition. It really gives awesome perspective for everyone involved. The residents love it, we love it. It's kind of an honor to be part of that."