Upstate Eight Conference River Division champions for the first time, and boy did Geneva ever earn it.
The Vikings had to go through the defending champs St. Charles East, and they did it in thrilling fashion Tuesday night coming from behind for a 25-27, 29-27, 25-20 victory.
Geneva (20-9, 6-0) becomes the third different school in the third year of the UEC River to win the title joining St. Charles East (22-12, 5-1) and Batavia in 2010.
“It was everything it was supposed to be,” Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. “I thought they played incredibly hard and incredibly well and I thought we matched their intensity. I don’t know what more you could ask for for the two 5-0 teams to settle it.”
How tight was the match?
Ÿ The teams played 153 riveting points, Geneva won 79 and the Saints 74.
Ÿ In the three games Geneva never led by more than five points, 14-9 in Game 2.
Ÿ St. Charles East never led by more than three points including 14-11 at one point in Game 3.
Ÿ The teams were tied 13 times in Game 1, 10 times in Game 2 and five more in Game 3. There were a total of 40 ties or lead changes in the match.
Ÿ The match lasted over an hour and a half, the result of one long rally after another with the teams trading one point-saving dig after another. It felt more like 15 minutes than 90 — that old saying about time flying when you are having fun — with a huge crowd turning out to support both teams.
“The rallies got really tiring but we were able to pull it off,” Geneva senior Hannah Buck said. “That’s one of our goals this year was to beat East.”
“How about those points?” Saints coach Jennie Kull said. “Long rallies, both sides digging balls and going after it.”
Geneva had a chance in the opener. Nichole Woods had 5 of her match-high 18 kills in the game, but the Vikings started to dig her late and got a game point at 25-24.
Saints setter Erienne Barry, who finished with 42 assists, got the ball to Woods for a kill that tied the score at 25, then set Ashley Bullock and Emma Johnson for kills on the final two points for the 27-25 win.
Game 2 provided even more drama than the first. The Saints fought off four game points until the smallest player on Geneva’s roster — 5-foot-5 Kelsey Wicinski — found herself in the front row and hit a perfect shot to the deep corner that landed just in for game point.
St. Charles East led for much of Game 3 but could never shake the Vikings. They committed 4 service errors — they wound up with 10 in the match to Geneva’s 3 — often coming with a chance to build their lead.
Down 18-16, Geneva outscored the Saints 9-2 to end the match. After a night filled with clutch plays by both sides, the Saints made a couple serve-receive miscues to fuel Geneva’s surge, and Maddie Courter provided the final point with a block that set off a wild Viking celebration.
“Definitely the biggest crowd we’ve ever had, they really supported us,” said the Vikings’ Kelly Dalheim. “It’s really stressful to keep the point going, but we just want the point really bad. Our momentum, our energy really helped us. Once we got on a run they weren’t able to stop us. I don’t even have words to describe it (the conference title). I’m so excited.”
In addition to the missed serves, the Saints had 18 hitting errors to Geneva’s 10 as the Vikings were able to overcome the power of Woods and company with more steady play.
“I’ve got some kids who really enjoy playing defense and they do it well,” Johnsen said.
“We didn’t serve well tonight. And the third game just kind of got a little funny,” said Kull who wasn’t awarded the point she thought the Saints should have received when the officials didn’t give Geneva a red card after the coaches stood up in Game 3 after a player got a yellow card in Game 2.
“That’s where our inexperience came in in a match like this. Maybe I got a little upset and the kids played off that a little but the bottom line is both teams battled and that’s what you want for a conference championship.”
Barry (2 aces, 15 digs, 2 blocks), Anne Hughes (18 digs), Woods (15 digs), Mikalea Mosquera (12 kills), Johnson (7 kills), Carly Jimenez (7 kills) and Bullock (3 blocks) all made several big plays for the Saints while Buck (10 kills, 20 digs), Dalheim (34 digs), Courtney Caruso (16 assists), Jess Wicinski (9 blocks, 6 kills), Taylor Marmitt (6 blocks, 4 kills) and many others did the same for Geneva.
“Geneva really played well,” Kull said. “They have a lot to be proud of.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.