Due mostly to bad luck, it took awhile for Geneva to establish its identity this season.
The Vikings sure look like they know who they are now -- and it is quite an imposing look.
Using its superior strength inside, Geneva cooled off a hot Batavia team 56-46 Friday night in Batavia, outrebounding the Bulldogs by a staggering 51-30 margin.
All five Geneva (11-8, 5-2) starters grabbed at least 6 rebounds led by scrappy Kelly Gordon with 12, Sami Pawlak 11, Sidney Santos 7 and Morgan Seberger and Abby Novak both with 6.
"Our kids came to play. We're a totally different team than the last time we played them," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said of a tighter 60-56 win. "We're more comfortable with where we have kids at and what we're asking them to do. Everyone understands the role they need to have to have success on this team."
The Vikings stayed a game behind Streamwood and St. Charles East in the Upstate Eight River race while Batavia (13-8, 4-3) is going to need help to get back into contention.
Geneva not only used its size to dominate the battle of the boards, the Vikings blocked 6 shots while harassing Batavia into 15-of-60 shooting from the field. Getting better percentage shots inside, Geneva made 22 of its 55 attempts and got to the free-throw line 20 times to Batavia's 12.
"It's hard to totally simulate (in practice) how hard and how relentless they play," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "For the first 11 minutes I didn't see that relentlessness, and then all of a sudden, boom, it was like sharks smelling blood in the water, they got that rebound, got that putback, got that steal and a tie game is 10."
Only three players scored for Batavia, a far cry from its previous game when the Bulldogs put 74 points on the board and four players hit double figures to hand St. Charles East its first conference loss.
Geneva never trailed. The Vikings scored the first six points of the game and took a 15-12 lead after the first quarter on a 3-pointer from Seberger.
Geneva survived a scare in the closing minute of the quarter when Santos had to be helped off the court after a collision on the baseline while trying to draw a charge on Liza Fruendt.
It turned out to be a left ankle injury, and while Santos was limping on it afterward it was a relief to everyone it wasn't a repeat of the ACL knee injuries that cost the junior her first two seasons at Geneva.
"When I went down I've rolled my ankle so many times I knew I'm going to need five minutes, it will be fine after," Santos said. "It hurts and I'll limp a little but I'm OK.
"This half of the season our mentality has changed. We're ready to show people who we are."
Santos returned midway through the second quarter and tallied the final basket of the first half, a putback that gave Geneva a 24-14 halftime lead.
Pawlak came up with an unconventional 3-point play, making a free throw and then rebounding her own miss on the second attempt and scoring to put the Vikings up 31-21. Geneva led by as much as 38-27 in the third quarter before a corner 3 from Fruendt and her 2 free throws brought Batavia within 38-32 going to the fourth.
The Bulldogs kept charging in the fourth, taking advantage of a couple minutes Santos was on the bench in foul trouble to force turnovers. Hannah Frazier scored a pair of baskets inside and later drew the fourth foul on Pawlak, made her 2 free throws and brought Batavia within 46-43 with 4:18 left.
But the Vikings responded with the next 8 points. Santos scored off a Pawlak assist, Santos hit a jumper, Gordon converted a putback and Santos passed to Pawlak for a score to put Geneva up 54-43 with two minutes left.
Pawlak led Geneva's balanced attack with 17 points, one more than Santos who also had 3 blocks and 3 steals. Meadows praised Seberger's effort defensively on Fruendt, and the junior guard also chipped in 7 points. Gordon scored 9.
Fruendt finished with 25 points, 4 steals and 4 assists, leaving her with 994 career points. Frazier (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Grizaffi (9 points on three 3-point baskets) were the only others to score.
"Since they beat East we were really excited to play them," said Pawlak, one of several Vikings who came Tuesday to watch Batavia play in person. "This is how we should have been playing in the beginning of the season and I'm glad. It's a new season."