Coming off a history-making season, Geneva's girls volleyball team looks poised to make even more.
The Vikings got their 2014 campaign season started on the right foot Tuesday night in front of their home fans and new coach Annie Seitelman, defeating Rosary 25-18, 25-21.
Geneva (1-0) graduated just three players from last year's squad that won the first sectional title in school history. Sophomore outside hitters Grace Loberg and Ally Barrett are two of the returners, and they combined for 14 kills against Rosary (0-1).
"We're all really close and they are all a great bunch of girls," Barrett said. "We have really high goals for the season. We've been working really hard to achieve them. We want to do just as well or hopefully better than we did last year but we know it's going to be really hard. We know it's not going to be easy to get back to where we were last year."
Seitelman, who played college volleyball at Indiana from 2004-2007, liked what she saw in her debut.
"I think we did well to start off," Seitelman said. "There's still plenty of room to grow. You never want to see your best volleyball on the first day of the season. Some positive things and definitely some areas we need to continue working on in practice."
Rosary led briefly at the start of both games. A kill from Erin Burke put the Royals ahead 7-5 in Game 1.
Loberg rattled off four straight points including an ace and a kill in the middle from Ally Mullen to put Geneva ahead to stay. Rosary coach Rachel Hartmann called timeout after a big swing from Loberg put the Vikings up 18-13, and after Barrett's slide kill gave Geneva a 23-18 lead, the final two of Rosary's 9 first-game hitting errors gave the Vikings the 25-18 win.
Rosary started strong in Game 2 with the first three points on serves from Domenique Voelsch. The Royals made more of an effort to get middles Meegan Hart and Michaela Ping involved in the second game, and that paid off with Hart's kill tying the score for the final time at 13-13.
Geneva gradually pulled away, using a variety of attackers. Loberg led with 8 kills, but the well-rounded Vikings saw Barrett and Hannah Lanasa chip in 6 each, and Kyley Thompson put away 5.
"We've got a lot of versatility and a lot of big hitters for us," Seitelman said. "It's nice Grace doesn't have to carry the load and we can distribute the offense a little bit more evenly and give other kids opportunities."
Mikayla Lanasa and Megan Cameron split time at setter with 14 and 9 assists, respectively. Loberg led with 10 digs and Kelsey Wicinski had 6 as the Vikings began a new era like they hoped to.
"It's a lot different," Barrett said of playing for Seitelman. "It's a lot more intense. But we are definitely learning a lot and she's going to help us reach where we need to go and she's going to help us get there."
Ping and Burke both had 5 kills for Rosary while Julia Gauthier and Grace Konovodoff each finished with 8 assists. Martha Konovodoff added 3 digs.
"I'm not thrilled with how we played but I'm still pleased with the results," Hartmann said. "When you look at how good of a team they are and how well they have been in the past, I think there were a lot of nerves on our part. Once that goes away it's going to be a different team.
"They are already showing they are hanging with a tough team. I told them this is not the team we are going to be at the end of the season. We're going to be a real good team. It's just going to take some work."