Predictability and a lack thereof factored into the Geneva girls volleyball team's 25-14, 25-20 victory at Larkin Tuesday evening.
When Larkin terminated a point, the ball came off the hands of two players without exception: Western Michigan bound hitter Olivia Kofie (10 kills) and fellow senior Brianna Stewart (5 kills). No other Royal registered a kill.
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The youthful Vikings were better balanced and more effective. Geneva setters Megan Cameron (12 assists) and Courtney Caruso (9 assists) spread the ball between junior middle Maddie Courter (5 kills, 6 blocks), sophomore outside hitter Kyley Thompson (6 kills) and freshman right side Grace Loberg (7 kills).
"We have a lot of different options and the ball is coming from all different places," Loberg said.
The victory improved the Vikings to 21-7 overall, 4-1 in the River Division of the Upstate Eight Conference. The Vikings will face St. Charles East (25-5, 4-1) next Tuesday. The winner of that match will likely share the UEC River title with St. Charles North.
"This was really important," Thompson said of getting a road win at Larkin (16-17, 2-4). "I thought we did good as a team and really held our own against them."
Geneva led 7-6 when it gained separation with a 6-0 run. Thompson ignited the push with a pair of power swings off the hands of Larkin blockers. Courter killed a one-set in the middle and blocked a Danielle Newquist attempt for another point. Larkin aided Geneva's run with a pair of hitting errors.
"We don't just give up 1 point," Larkin coach Henry Graack lamented. "If we give up 1 point, we give up the next 2 or 3."
Thompson punctuated Game 1 away with a strong spike for a right-side kill, courtesy of a well-placed back set from Cameron.
Game 2 was more competitive. It featured five lead changes until the Vikings took a 12-11 advantage on a Loberg smash.
"It seemed like the energy went out in the second game a little bit, but give Larkin some credit for that," Geneva coach KC Johnsen said. "They were playing a little sharper."
Serving was the difference down the stretch. The Vikings received an ace from Loberg to take an 18-14 lead, another from Courter to take a 23-19 lead and from yet another from Caruso to win match point. Meanwhile, Larkin short circuited its chances to close the gap late in the second game by making 4 service errors in 5 attempts.
"We're trying to get them to serve with good locations so you're going to miss some serves," Graack said, "but you can't miss 4 out of 5, even if you're aiming for spots on the court.
"But I felt we just gave them the first game. Any ball we had the chance to swing at we just put it over the net instead of swinging hard at it. We were just too easy on them. I feel like we didn't take advantage of their inexperience enough."
Geneva junior libero Kelsey Wicinski finished with 21 digs. Larkin freshman Natalie Kofie had 8 assists and a block and senior Alyssa McGhee finished with 6 assists and 6 blocks. Olivia Kofie and Stewart added 7 digs apiece.