Defense was the difference Thursday night for Geneva against its archrivals.
In an entirely different atmosphere and conditions than the schools' Upstate Eight River regular-season girls volleyball match, the Vikings stood their ground against Batavia in their Class 4A regional championship.
"We won with our scrappiness and defense from the back row," Geneva outside hitter Hannah Buck said after the Vikings outlasted Batavia 25-22, 21-25 and 25-19 to win its first postseason hardware in three years. "We had a lot of energy that we brought into their house. We were able to pull it out at the end."
Geneva, the second seed in the Larkin sectional complex, advances to face Upstate Eight River foe St. Charles East Tuesday in Elgin.
Batavia had its season close at 20-17.
Senior libero Kelly Dalheim personified the Vikings' defense in the opening game.
Batavia had led the first set almost for the duration, with Geneva never maintaining greater than a 1-point lead.
But with the Vikings leading 23-22, Batavia appeared virtually certain for yet another deadlock when senior middle Kristen Koncelik rifled a blistering kill attempt.
Dalheim made the play of the night, though, miraculous digging the ball with her fist.
Equally remarkable, the dig turned into a kill when it landed in unoccupied territory.
"That was a huge play," Geneva coach KC Johnsen said.
"I knew I had to get over to keep the play going," Dalheim said. "Obviously I wasn't expecting to get a kill."
"That was a key point in Game One," Batavia coach Lori Trippi-Payne said.
But Batavia was not about to roll over after a double-hit cost them the opener.
Behind the hitting authority of Koncelik, who had a team-high 10 kills, and the superlative blocking of Shea Thayer and Anysa Ocon, Batavia scored 18 of the first 30 points to take a 6-point lead.
Geneva (29-7) promptly hit the Bulldogs with a 6-0 run to force the last of four ties, but Batavia junior Shea Stanley forced a decisive third set with the help of lady luck: her kill attempt brushed the net and bounced almost sideways into empty Geneva space.
"We have come a long way since (the teams' conference match in mid-September)," Trippi-Payne said.
In the rubber game, Geneva never trailed after scoring 4 of the first 5 points.
Dalheim and Buck were the glue to the Vikings' suffocating defense.
The duo combined for an astonishing 40 digs, including 25 from Dalheim, to thwart the Bulldogs' offense.
"Geneva just did a nice job of blocking and digging," Trippi-Payne said.
Megan Ball had back-to-back aces as Geneva opened the last game with a pair of 8-4 runs to build a 16-8 cushion.
Courtney Caruso also provided invaluable aid off the bench for Geneva, but it was Jess Wicinski who had the most memorable kill of her senior year.
Wicinski terminated the Bulldogs' season with the last of her team-high 10 kills; Buck added nine more for Geneva.
"We were playing great in all three games," said Koncelik. "(Geneva) just ended up coming out on top."