Geneva's middle hitters saw the perfect opening to close out Plainfield East on Saturday afternoon.
Sophomore Sam Wulfkuhle provided Dominic Bondi with an idea set -- and the senior responded with a deft kill to clinch fifth place for the Vikings' boys volleyball team at the 16-team Plainfield North Invite.
It proved to be a satisfactory season debut for the Vikings as the squad won four matches. Geneva defeated Fenton, Proviso West and Bolingbrook after losing the tiebreaker to the host Tigers in the final pool-play match -- under the tutelage of acting coach Scott Hennig.
It was only fitting that 6-foot-5 middle hitter Mason Stierwalt closed out the Bengals with the final point in the opening set to establish the Vikings' pathway to the ultimate 25-20, 25-22 consolation victory.
"When we needed a point, we went to Mason," said Hennig, whose was filling in for K.C. Johnsen, out of town at a national club tournament.
In the fifth-place match against Plainfield East, which advanced with a straight-sets win over Joliet Central, the Vikings were tied at every point in the second set between Nos. 4 and 10.
But the Bengals' Andre Flores' consecutive aces -- part of his monster performance of 7 kills, 10 assists and 5 digs--put Plainfield East ahead by a pair.
But Geneva would not wilt as Stierwalt followed a Plainfield East hitting error with another of his team-high kills to continue the back-and-forth dynamic.
Plainfield East (2-4) had the last of its leads at 21-20 -- following three more deadlocks at 18, 19 and 20 -- only to have disaster strike.
The Bengals squandered their last lead when they were unable to return a Geneva volley, and the Vikings proceeded to benefit from three consecutive hitting mistakes.
Suddenly, Geneva was on the brink of match point.
"Our philosophy is to be aggressive," Plainfield East coach Daniel Vergo said. "We're living and dying by the attack."
Plainfield East staved off one match point, but the Wulfkuhle-Bondi collaboration sealed the Vikings' consolation prize.
"That match was great," Bondi said. "We finished them off like we should have."
In the Vikings' first-game 25-20 victory, libero Brandon Navigato, duplicating the early game serving wizardry of Franz, had a critical ace to extend the Vikings' lead to 22-18.
Stierwalt notched point No. 23, and Paul Larson followed the Bengals' ensuing sideout with a clean winner.
Stierwalt provided Larson with the last of his serving points with a final kill--his sixth of the opening set--to close out the game.
"We were all tired, but we pulled together as a team to pull that one (against Plainfield East) out," Stierwalt said. "Everyone contributed. Not one guy slacked. I was pleased with my own performance."
Hennig had a similar viewpoint.
"I was real impressed with our ability to play together," Hennig said. "We attacked the ball well."