Batavia girls volleyball coach Lori Trippi-Payne has patiently waited for her team's rugged schedule to pay off.
Tuesday was the night.
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After suffering a tough opening-game loss, the Bulldogs (6-7, 1-1) regrouped, made a few strategic changes and pulled out a much-needed 20-25, 25-22, 25-22 Upstate Eight Conference River Division triumph over host Geneva (8-4, 1-1).
It marked Batavia's first victory over Geneva since 2010 when its UEC River champion squad captured the regional title on the Vikings' home floor.
"The last time it happened our seniors were freshmen so none of the girls on this team had beaten Geneva on the varsity level," said Trippi-Payne.
That fact wasn't lost on senior outside hitter Shea Stanley, who led the Bulldogs with 11 kills.
"It's just so amazing to be on a team that can fight so hard for this through any game no matter the losses we've had before this," said Stanley, trying to catch her breath while fighting back tears after the pressure-packed match.
In Game 2, senior middle hitter Shea Thayer (4 kills) capped a late 3-0 run with 1 of her career-high tying 7 blocks to help the Bulldogs force a decisive third game.
"We adjusted where we were setting our block a little bit (in Game 2)," said Trippi-Payne. "And we just kept saying, 'let's keep chipping away.'"
Fueled by 6-foot-2 freshman outside hitter Grace Loberg (career-high 21 kills and 21 digs), the Vikings came out swinging in the third game and opened a 16-13 lead.
Batavia answered with 6 unanswered points to go up 19-16 before the Vikings pulled within 23-22 on a block by senior setter Courtney Caruso (21 assists).
After a kill by junior Jancy Lundberg (career-high 5 blocks) made it 24-22, junior libero Maddie Jaudon (career-high 18 digs) sealed the decision for the Bulldogs with a service ace.
"Her first serve of the match was an ace and her last serve of the match was an ace," said Trippi-Payne.
There were several other heroes for the Bulldogs, including Audrey Faulhaber (19 assists, 12 digs), Heather Meyer (9 kills, 18 digs) and Maddy Astling (career-high 5 blocks).
"I attribute it (the win) to three things -- how hard we work in practice, how hard we work in the weight room, and the strength of our schedule," said Trippi-Payne. "To be honest, it probably wasn't one of our stronger serve-receive matches or one of our stronger attacking matches. But we served tough, we made our serves and we blocked."
Batavia had already faced the likes of Benet, St. Francis, St. Charles East, Crystal Lake Central, Cary-Grove, Plainfield Central and Providence prior to its showdown with rival Geneva.
"We knew that Geneva was going to be tough," said Trippi-Payne, who came away impressed by Loberg's all-around game for the Vikings. "She's already a special player.
"But we've seen it all year. We were ready for it. When you lose a good game to Benet and face some other really tough programs at some point it's got to go your way."
In addition to Loberg's superb effort, the Vikings received solid performances from libero Kelsey Wicinski (school-record 48 digs), junior Maddie Courter (7 blocks) and sophomore Kyley Thompson (8 kills).
"Batavia always plays great defense but they were better than usual tonight, I thought," said Geneva coach KC Johnsen, whose team committed 10 service errors. "It was a fun match and a great atmosphere -- it's just a shame we had to lose.
"But we're getting better and that's what I'm excited about."