Girls volleyball: Geneva's Loberg just got better and better
One thousand is a significant milestone in several high school sports that only the best of the best high school athletes achieve.
Except for Geneva senior Grace Loberg, who has been hitting four digits about as effortlessly as the Wisconsin-bound senior hits a volleyball over a double block.
Last winter on the basketball court, Loberg scored her 1,000th career point. Sometime this winter, she'll grab her 1,000th rebound.
This fall Loberg smashed her 1,000th kill for a Geneva volleyball team that took a 35-1 record into this week's sectional play.
That's a trifecta that doesn't come around often -- if ever.
Neither do athletes like Loberg.
Loberg is this year's captain of the Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area girls volleyball team. It caps four remarkable years for Loberg, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter who committed to Wisconsin her sophomore year.
To reach 1,000 career kills, it usually takes starting on varsity as a freshman. That's just what Loberg did, leading Geneva in kills on the way to the first sectional championship in school history.
Current coach Annie Seitelman was an assistant to K.C. Johnsen on that team.
"It's incredible to see a freshman come in with that size but also that athleticism," Seitelman remembered. "Most kids going through that growth spurt aren't as coordinated. They kind of need to get a couple years under their belt. What I remember too is she was kind of a sleeper. As a freshman she flew a little under the radar and teams were surprised by how talented she was. Sophomore year she was no secret."
Loberg can't believe how fast time has gone between that season with her senior year now here.
"Everybody says high school goes by fast and you don't believe it until it actually does," Loberg said. "I can't believe this is my last volleyball season and it's going to be my last basketball season.
"I love Geneva, the schools are amazing, the teachers are amazing. Everyone is supportive of the sports. It's an awesome community to grow up in."
Seitelman took over as varsity coach during Loberg's sophomore year, and Loberg kept pounding away with 330 kills, plus 215 digs, 42 aces and 27 blocks.
Seitelman watched Loberg find new ways to succeed even with the extra attention.
"There comes a lot of maturity not only in her skills and game play but getting more experienced at the high school level and also she plays for a competitive club program that competes nationally as well," Seitelman said. "Her being able to grow in both of those environments, continue to improve, not be satisfied with where she's at but continue to get better."
A bout with mono sidelined Loberg for seven matches early in her junior season. She returned and totaled 275 kills on a 33-win team.
That year, though, ended in a surprise loss in the regional finals to Naperville North. Loberg and fellow senior starters Ally Barrett, Mikayla Lanasa, Ally Mullen and Julia Brown returned determined to make their final year with the Vikings a memorable one.
That they have, losing only once in a 33-1 regular season -- 26-24, 27-25 to a Benet team that Geneva also beat to win the Wheaton Classic.
Through Tuesday's sectional win over Neuqua Valley that improved the Vikings to 36-1, Loberg has a team-high 337 kills with 211 digs and 33 aces.
"I'm super happy with how everything has gone," Loberg said. "Our team chemistry is super amazing right now. We all get along so well and that helps so much with the energy on the court. I can't imagine playing for a different team."
Loberg certainly has the genes to play volleyball at a high level. The daughter of Greg and Colleen Loberg, Grace's mom played middle blocker at Indiana University -- the same school and position Loberg's high school coach Seitelman did.
That connection wasn't enough for Loberg to became a Hoosier, though she stayed in the Big Ten with the Badgers.
"I looked at Indiana, I love the school so much, but something about Wisconsin I loved," Loberg said. "Everybody says there's a certain feeling you get when you walk on campus that you know you want to be there. That's what I got."
Loberg heads to a strong Wisconsin program that includes West Aurora graduate Lauren Carlini, now a senior and only the second two-time all-American in school history. The Badgers are 18-3 this year, and they went 26-7, 30-3 and 30-10 the previous three seasons.
"They are doing amazing so it has been super fun to watch them and cheer them on," Loberg said.
"The Big Ten, that's one of the toughest conferences in the country," Seitelman said. "I'm sure (Wisconsin coach) Kelly (Sheffield) has a plan for her and what her role on the team will be. She has the potential to be very successful. I'm sure he'll mode her to fit into his system. She just needs to take that mentality of where she's at with her level of play, her game, is great, but she's going to continue to improve all around. Everyone is going to be hitting hard, everyone is going to be serving aggressively. Everybody's game elevates at that level. Grace needs to focus on that mentality of 'I'm good, but I can always get better.'"
When asked what Loberg is like off the court, Seitelman pointed to her sense of humor, how she likes to be around and help kids, and the importance of family.
"Her personality, she's so funny," Seitelman said. "She's a great kid. She is so close to her family, to see her with her younger siblings and see how supportive she is of them. It's nice to get to know these kids over several years, you get to know them more than just an athlete. Get to know them as a great person."
Loberg's older brother Matt played football at Geneva and then at Butler before transferring to Missouri. She has a younger sister Anna, an eighth-grader, a setter in volleyball who also plays basketball. ("She's going to be a good athlete, my brother likes to say she's going to be the best athlete in the family," Grace said.)
Michael Loberg is in fifth grade. ("He comes to all the games, he's the best supporter ever," Grace said.)
Perhaps what's been most remarkable about Loberg's four years at Geneva is at the same time she's become one of the best volleyball players in the country, she's arguably made as big of an impact on the Vikings' basketball program.
In the day and age of specialization, Loberg has continued playing basketball. She made All-Area in basketball her freshman, sophomore and junior seasons, helping Geneva reach sectionals all three years in that sport including a state trip as a freshman.
"I still love the game and I love playing for (Geneva girls basketball coach Sarah) Meadows and coach (Lindsey) Heuttemann," Loberg said. "The team is just awesome and they are very accommodating with volleyball and volleyball practices. If I have to miss for something very important for volleyball they totally understand."
Last year she led the Vikings in scoring (14.5 ppg), rebounding (10.4), blocked shots (2.2) and steals (2.8). There's little doubt she would be just as sought after by Division I coaches in basketball.
"I can't say enough about that kid," said Meadows, recalling a story about Loberg playing at the Montini Christmas Classic as a freshman.
"The first time coaches saw Grace play at Montini she was a freshman. After our first game I had 3 coaches hand me their cards asking about Grace. She is such a talented basketball player. She does our camp in the summer and she plays during the season and probably plays some driveway ball with her family. Her goal was to play volleyball in college, I am sure she could have easily played basketball in college if she wanted to. I could not be more proud of her for being committed to both volleyball and basketball. It is hard to do but if you are willing to do it, you can. She is an awesome kid and so deserving of every success she achieves. She puts her time in and works hard at everything she does and the best part is she always has a smile on her face."