BY PHIL BROZYNSKI
There are times in a volleyball match when everything comes together perfectly – the perfect serve receive becomes the perfect pass. The perfect pass becomes the perfect set. The perfect set leads to an indefensible attack. And every block and defensive play creates another opportunity.
How else can you explain Benet’s first set against Lincoln-Way Central in the championship match of the Mizuno Scholastic Cup tournament Saturday at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora?
“It was magical,” Benet’s senior setter Hannah Kaminsky said.
Whatever spell the Redwings cast over the Knights in the first set wore off in the second, but Benet still had enough cards up its sleeve to mesmerize Lincoln-Way Central 25-5, 25-19 and claim its third tournament title of the season.
Cara Mattaliano led Benet (24-2) with 11 kills. Nicki Barnes (block, ace) and Brittany Pavich (two blocks) each had six kills, Kaminsky added 28 assists and libero Sheila Doyle had 12 digs, two assists and a kill.
Benet closed the first set on a 17-1 run after a kill by Lincoln-Way Central’s Maria Brown (three kills) had the Knights (20-6) within 8-4.
“We did a really good job of staying focused throughout the whole first game and I think that helped us,” Doyle said. “We didn’t carry it over into the second game as much as we should have, but I think that was a good way for us to come out and feel comfortable and be OK in a championship match.”
A kill by 6-foot-3 middle Amanda Dolan (three kills, two blocks) pulled Lincoln-Way Central even with Benet at 14-14 in the second set, but a 7-2 spurt by the Redwings capped by a Mattaliano kill all but banished the Knights to a runner-up finish.
“We actually had a really great weekend, but our first game against Benet we didn’t push hard enough,” Dolan said. “We didn’t connect. But every other game we did perfect. Everything is finally clicking. Our whole team works hard in practice and in every game we work harder. This is great.”
Lincoln-Way Central reached the championship match by defeating No. 3 seed Hinsdale South 27-25, 25-18 in the quarterfinals and No. 2 seed Joliet Catholic 25-18, 25-11 in the semifinals.
“I can’t even talk about the first set (against Benet), but the girls battled back and they fought and that’s how we need to approach the rest of the season,” Lincoln-Way Central coach Kathy Sulkowski said. “We’re right there with the really great teams, we just need to keep pushing.
“We haven’t peaked yet, but we know that we have to keep pushing and keep moving on,” she added.
Joliet Catholic (23-4) bounced back from its semifinal loss to edge Naperville Central (20-6) 27-25, 25-16 for third place.
“Plain and simple, they (the Knights) played their butts off and they deserved to win that match,” Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe said. “They played really hard. They came out and they wanted it and we just couldn’t keep up with them. They were the better team in that match.”
Naperville North (18-7) defeated Edwardsville (20-6) 254-13, 25-23 for fifth place, and Bloomington (18-8) outlasted Hinsdale South (17-7) 27-29, 26-24, 27-25 for seventh place. St. Charles East rallied to beat Prairie Ridge 20-25, 25-15, 25-20 to win the Silver division.