No matter who wins Thursday night’s Class 4A Larkin sectional championship between No. 1 seed Glenbard West and No. 2 Geneva, you can’t blame either school for celebrating a little extra long.
After all, Glenbard West hasn’t won a sectional since 1985.
And Geneva? The Vikings have never won one.
While the programs might not have a lot of extended postseason success in their past, they both have excellent 2012 squads who play fundamentally sound volleyball and have what it takes to not only win Thursday but keep on going from there.
Geneva (30-7) brings a 12-game winning streak into the match. The last two in that streak came against local rivals Batavia and St. Charles East, both of whom the Vikings were able to beat again after winning in the regular season.
Now it’s Glenbard West (36-2) who hopes to beat Geneva twice after the Hilltoppers defeated the Vikings in three sets earlier this season at the Glenbard West Tournament.
“It was a pretty good battle,” Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. “(Glenbard West coach) Pete (Mastandrea) is a great coach, they will be ready. They have a wonderful setter, a really nice libero, an outside, they have some kids who can really play. It will be a battle.”
Geneva senior Jess Wicinski had 6 kills and 4 blocks in Tuesday’s 25-22, 25-19 win over St. Charles East.
“I just remember it was in a tournament and it was our third game and we were a little tired and we didn’t play our toughest we should have,” Wicinski said of the first meeting with the Hilltoppers. “We’ll have to be really smart with our hitting and work on our blocks and make sure the tips we get up.”
Both Glenbard West and Geneva brought big crowds to Larkin on Tuesday and those numbers should only grow Thursday. The winner advances to Saturday’s Niles West supersectional at 1 p.m. against New Trier or Niles West.
Led by Kelly Dalheim, the Vikings’ strength is their defense. They keep points alive and have been finding a way to win a majority of them during their streak.
“They are a very good defensive team,” St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull said. “They might not be flashy and all that but they get balls up and they keep control of the ball.”
“I think our energy is one of the big things, and our crowd gets into it. When we have more energy the other team gets down,” Wicinski said.
In their 25-23, 25-19 win over St. Charles North on Tuesday, Megan Wagner led the Hilltoppers with 16 kills. That despite North Stars coach Lindsey Hawkins saying her team’s focus was on shutting down the powerful hitter.
“She’s a senior, she was my leading hitter,” Mastandrea said. “Whenever anyone talks about Glenbard West, they talk about Amanda Perry and Caleigh Ryan, two four-year players. She played like we knew, but she did have a little more in her arm (against SCN) there’s no doubt.”
Speaking to reporters following Tuesday’s win, Mastandrea opened up his briefcase and took out the plaque of the only other Hilltopper team to win 36 games — the 1983 state championship team. Beating Geneva would allow these Hilltoppers to break their record for wins and get that elusive sectional title.
“These kids want to be part of history,” Mastandrea said. “They want to leave their mark here. These kids won’t take a day off. I think we’re starting to play well, I can feel it, I can sense it.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.