Geneva controls St. Charles East
Geneva has had some excellent volleyball teams through the years, including several led by Jess Wicinski's older sister Lauren, but this year's Vikings are now one win away from doing something none of those past powers did.
With a convincing 25-22, 25-19 victory over St. Charles East on Tuesday night at the Class 4A Larkin sectional, red-hot Geneva moves one win away from its first sectional championship after winning its 12th straight.
The No. 2 seeded Vikings (30-7) can get there Thursday by beating No. 1 Glenbard West (36-2) who edged Geneva in three sets in an earlier meeting this season.
"It would be a really big deal," Jess Wicinski said. "We'd be legendary. That would be pretty cool if we could do that."
Just two weeks ago Geneva knocked off St. Charles East in a thriller -- 25-27, 29-27, 25-20 -- a win that gave the Vikings the UEC River title and also seemed to give them a confidence boost this time around against the third-seeded Saints (25-13).
Unlike the first meeting with lead changes and tight games throughout, Geneva was in control down the stretch of both sets Tuesday.
"I don't think we were afraid, we were ready for them at the beginning and we didn't back down tonight," Geneva middle Taylor Marmitt said. "We just took it from there.
"They (the Saints) are such a good competitors so I'm just so proud of my team tonight."
Errors plagued the Saints Tuesday. Geneva kept points alive, often long enough for the Saints to make a mistake.
One such error put the Vikings ahead for good in Game 1, 11-10. Kelly Dalheim served a tough short serve that led to a free ball for Wicinski and a 19-14 lead; Erienne Barry answered for the Saints with a short serve Geneva couldn't handle to bring the Saints within 19-16.
The Saints got as close as 22-21 when Carly Jimenez slammed a ball off Geneva's block, but the Vikings closed the game out on Marmitt's kill, Hannah Buck hitting a winner down the line and Nicole Schneider's dink on game point.
St. Charles East led 10-6 in Game 2 but the Vikings caught them at 14 on the first of three straight Saints hitting errors. That stretch ended with Geneva up 16-14, and the Vikings added to the lead from there highlighted by 2 blocks and a kill by Marmitt.
Buck's kill from the back row ended the match and set off Geneva's celebration.
"Once we got used to the noise and crowd, we have those three sophomores (Kelsey Wicinski, Hannah Lanassa and Maddie Courter), they came around and made some big plays for us," Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. "And Taylor had some big swings."
Annie Hughes had 7 digs for the Saints, Carly Jimenez 7 kills and Emma Johnson 4 kills.
"I think they (Geneva) played well against us this year," Saints coach Jennie Kull said. "We just didn't execute tonight. We worked on a lot of things, we knew what we needed to do, we just weren't able to execute, and Geneva did a really nice job. And frankly we just made too many errors, and they took advantage of them. I just never felt like we were ever in a rhythm today, it didn't feel like we were making it happen."
Two seniors who helped the Saints take third in the state last year played their final match. Nicole Woods had 8 kills and Barry 15 assists and 3 kills giving her 2,722 in her four-year career for seventh most in state history.
"Pretty amazing careers," Kull said. "I'm sad for them. But I'm proud of them, I couldn't be more honored to coach them. We started the season 0-4 so to be in this match right now, I'm very proud. Many people wouldn't have thought we'd be here. The kids battled all year long and they played really well."
Among the Geneva leaders were Kelly Dalheim (20 digs), Marmitt (7 blocks, 5 kills), Courter (6 blocks), Buck (11 digs, 5 kills), Wicinski (6 kills, 4 blocks) and Courtney Carusso (11 assists).
"They (the Saints) play some pretty solid defense themselves," Johnsen said. "We knew we weren't going to be any more clever than they were because they are a great team and a great program and a lot of those kids have had so much success over the years. We definitely came in with some respect for them and I think that was part of the reason we were successful."
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