Twelve seniors dot the St. Charles North boys volleyball program, and their collective experience as upperclassmen paid huge dividends Tuesday night at home.
In a critical showdown with fellow unbeaten Upstate Eight Conference River Division rival Geneva, the North Stars never trailed in either game of their straight-sets 25-15 and 25-18 victory over the Vikings in St. Charles.
"Senior night can be a distraction, but (St. Charles North) came out with a lot of energy," Geneva coach K.C. Johnsen said.
The North Stars can clinch their second conference championship in program history with a victory over Streamwood next week.
Kevin Beach had a match-high 11 kills and added 6 digs and back-to-back aces to spearhead the North Stars' offense and defense.
The latter was particularly significant as St. Charles North (21-4, 4-0) limited high-powered Geneva outside hitter Mason Stierwalt to a pair of kills.
"We have had a long week off," said Beach, who had 4 critical second-game kills down the stretch after Geneva (18-6, 3-1) reduced its one-time 13-point deficit to three. "Coach (Todd) Weimer really had us prepared well for this match. We knew who their go-to guys were. Nothing special on No. 17 (Stierwalt), but we just blocked really well."
The second game appeared to be a laugher when senior Ryan Dal Degan served 9 consecutive points to give the North Stars 15 of the first 17 points scored.
"(Weimer) was giving me zones to serve," Dal Degan said. "That definitely gave me confidence back there. We feel like we can play with anybody when we are playing well."
But Geneva gamely fought back from its sizable second-set deficit as libero Brandon Navigato served 9 straight points.
Chris Parilli, who led the Vikings with 7 kills, brought Geneva to within 16-13 with a cross-court winner.
But Beach would have kills for the North Stars' 19th, 20th, 21st and 23rd points; Geneva would never come closer than 4 points as senior Zach Ziesmer iced the triumph with another St. Charles North kill.
"We don't have (the divisional title) in the bag," said Weimer. "We are definitely in the driver's seat. (Beach has) been on fire the whole season. He's been tremendous."
In the opening set, St. Charles North scored the first 3 points.
Geneva would never be closer than two the rest of the first game.
The North Stars steadily created separation as the final score ended up being their largest first-game lead.
Senior Jack Harbaygh had the game-winner for St. Charles North in the 25-15 win.
In addition to Beach, Dal Degan, Ziesmer and Harbaygh, the North Stars' other seniors are Jonathan Orech, Pat Misiewicz (match-high 25 assists), Trevor Case, Jimmy Vainsi, Doug Donnan, Jack Hamilton, Arry Rizky and Parker Wayne.
"We just didn't bring enough energy," Johnsen said. "They were definitely playing at a higher level than we were."