At the end of Saturday's match, there was no denying that Geneva's girls soccer team was better than West Aurora's -- the 8-0 final emphatically made that point.
But there were moments in the match where the visiting Blackhawks stretched the hosts before the goal flood came.
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In the opening half, Geneva keeper Sam Hauser made a pair of saves as good as any that will be made this spring. The second, a diving save to her right to keep out a rifled shot by Reilly Kulakowski ranks as an all-state caliber stop. The first of those saves -- also on a Kulakowski shot -- came when the score was still 0-0.
"I expected us to get scored on twice today -- they had two really good scoring opportunities," Geneva coach Megan Owens said. "The player of the game definitely goes to Sam Hauser. She's had two really strong showings for us, which is great, because that's an area where in the past we've struggled a little bit."
It took the Vikings 18 minutes to start finding the back of the net. Once they got their scoring touch, they quickly took the match beyond doubt by scoring five times in 16 minutes.
Five different players scored for Geneva (1-1), led by senior Molly Axen, who recorded a hat trick. Axen's first goal was also the initial goal of the match, when she took an Amanda Lulek left-wing cross and shot back to the left into the net.
"We created a lot of offense in general," Owens said. "We didn't always finish, but I saw a lot of positives, which was good. We needed a strong showing in a game."
Lulek added a pair of goals, including the second after good buildup work by Axen, Maureen Kozlow and Molly Stanfa. That strong passing buildup was a characteristic for many of Geneva's goals.
"I think we've always been a really good possession team," Owens said. "We've always been a strong passing team. We're pretty sound technically."
The Vikings' defense recorded its first shutout of the season. In addition to Hauser's saves, a further key was the work by the new partnership in central defense by junior Tory Herbst and sophomore Megan Kozlow. Herbst is in her third year as a varsity starter but is meshing well with Kozlow, a newcomer to the starting lineup.
"(Kozlow) was with us last year, so she can kind of see what was going on," Herbst said. "I think that helped her come in and know what her job is and how I play. I think we work very well together."
West Aurora (0-2) continues making progress, despite the loss.
"It's just finishing," West Aurora coach Laura Wagley said. "We had chances in the first 20 minutes where, if we had finished, hopefully it would have been a different game."
After suffering through Geneva's goal onslaught, the Blackhawks regrouped.
"It took us a while to figure out what they were doing offensively," Wagley said. "We made some adjustments at the half and it helped a little bit."