By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The seniors on the Geneva volleyball team are so close, they decided to attend Character Day at school Thursday as the seven dwarves. They had been dreading senior night and the end of the season for not just days, but weeks.
What started out as an evening to mourn, turned into a night to celebrate as the Eagles toppled North, 25-20, 25-17, 25-8, to claim the Premier Athletic Conference championship.
“It was very important for us to finish our senior year, not even just for us, but for the other girls, as PAC champions,” Geneva senior Chelsea Scafuro said. “We especially wanted to win with our friends.
“We’ve grown up together. We’re a big family that sticks up for each other through thick and thin.”
“Our goal was to win the PAC our senior year,” Geneva senior Emily Ball said. “It’s such a great feeling to achieve our goal.
“We got together with seventh-grade volleyball and we just never separated.”
That senior group, including Ball, Scafuro, Christa Cash, Kylee Corlew, Rikki Metzler, Kirstie Otto and Allie Penna, had been dreading their senior night match all season.
“There’s been crying weekly,” Geneva coach Annah Haeseler said. “It wasn’t just tonight. I got a text from one of them last night at 11 saying she was crying. It was emotional.”
Winning the league was not an easy task for the Eagles (17-4, 10-2). They fell behind the pace early on, losing matches to South and Riverside, before avenging both losses to draw back even at the top of the standings.
“The first half of the season, we lost games to Riverside here and South there,” Ball said. “The thought was we have got to do something.
“We had to sit down and think about what we were going to do.”
“The drive was still there,” Scafuro said. “It never went away. There was definitely a heavy weight on our shoulders after we lost those two. But we got one here against South and then one at Riverside. We knew we could do it.”
“Maybe we saw a little doubt in the girls right after a loss,” Haeseler said. “But the season is long, it’s tough and we play everybody (in the league) twice. We knew we had a chance because we still had that second round. In the losses early on, we didn’t play well, so we knew (winning the league) was possible.”
The emotions of senior night hung with the Eagles through much of the first game as the Rangers (7-14, 3-9) built a 13-8 lead behind an ace serve from Kelly Lang, a kill from Jessica Caspio and a slew of Geneva mistakes.
“We ran fast,” North coach Erik Poje said. “We can run a fast offense when we pass well. In Game 1, Caspio had three kills and Stef Crevda had three kills. We were just trying to make them catch us.
“We thought we’d come in here and surprise them coming off senior night. They have good leaders. They’re a good team and they find ways to fight. Give Annah credit. They never lost composure.”
The Eagles used two kills and an ace serve from Ball, two kills from Sarah Juncker and an ace serve from Cash to get even at 15-15. The teams traded points until a kill by Caspio had North ahead, 20-19.
Ball then sparked a Geneva outpouring that lasted the rest of the match. She scored kills on three of the Eagles’ final six points to give Geneva the one-game-to-none lead.
“It’s a matter of getting momentum, getting a few points in a row with power behind them,” Haeseler said. “In any match we play, it’s a matter of catching fire, who’s going to catch fire and who’s going to push us over the edge.”
“What happened at 20-20 was our passing broke down,” Poje said. “Geneva was able to catch us.
“If you look at the season, one player sparks them. On any given night, it can be any one of those girls and then it’s, ‘Wow!’ Everyone gets excited. That’s what good teams do.”
Two ace spikes from Scafuro and one each from Ball and Otto had Geneva in front, 6-2, to open the second game. An ace serve from Penna and two kills and an ace block from Meghan Cool all but secured the second game for the Eagles, who were beginning to have a bit of fun with the match.
“Being senior night, they earned a little bit of a right to just have some fun, to just have a good time,” Haeseler said. “It was an important match for us, don’t get me wrong. But it was important to enjoy playing with each other for the last home game.
“They play their best when they’re loose. I think everybody plays their best when they’re loose and having fun. It’s not fun when you lose. I’ve just never had a group of seniors who loved each other so much. They are literally a family.”
That fun cascaded into the third game as Scafuro had three kills, Ball had three ace serves, Juncker had two kills and Cool had a kill as the Eagles skated out to a 10-1 lead. A back-row kill from Metzler all but sealed the victory as Geneva went up, 18-6.
“We tried a couple different defenses,” Poje said. “We were a little out of rotation with a couple of players, one (Tori Wallace) was hurt (injured her ankle during the JV match). We tried to adjust, match up better, block better.
“They were painting the lines and trying to make us play defense over 900 square feet. They’re hard to defend.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.