Chicago Suntimes By Phil Brozynski
Benet (35-5) threw up a wall at the net, rejecting eight shots for winners, and Caroline Wolf (15 digs), sophomore Tiffany Clark (seven digs) and junior Natalie Canulli (five digs) cleaned up the rest as the Redwings knocked off Normal 25-18, 25-20.
NORMAL – Benet coach Brad Baker was worried that if Normal Community was able to pass well and stay in system, his team could be in for a long night Saturday at the Class 4A supersectional hosted by the Ironmen.
Normal passed well, but it still wasn’t enough.
Benet (35-5) threw up a wall at the net, rejecting eight shots for winners, and Caroline Wolf (15 digs), sophomore Tiffany Clark (seven digs) and junior Natalie Canulli (five digs) cleaned up the rest as the Redwings earned their third consecutive trip to the state finals, 25-18, 25-20.
“They reminded of me when we saw Glenbard West (at Autumnfest),” Baker said. “That was one of the best high school passing performances we’ve ever seen. We didn’t have anyone to serve. They were consistently in system.
“We thought that if they (Normal) could pass like that, we could lose,” he added. “But we were able to defend and block well enough and give ourselves enough chances. This team has some girls who love to play defense. Now they get to play a couple more times.”
Benet grabbed a quick 15-6 lead in Game 1 on three kills from junior Dana Griffin (nine kills) and a dump by Stephanie Sinnappan (17 assists, three blocks, kill). But Normal countered with seven unanswered points before the Redwings regrouped.
Normal (24-15) opened Game 2 with a 7-2 flurry and still led 13-11 when Benet surged behind Whitney Battoe, who had five kills and a block in the second set.
“Our focus before the game was to stay steady,” Battoe said. “We were confident that our team could get out of situations when we needed to. We and we just stayed calm the whole way out and pushed through the end.”
A kill by Battoe gave Benet the lead for good at 15-14, and blocks by Sinnappan and 6-foot-1 junior middle Marija Cyvas extended the lead to 22-19 before Griffin went back-to-back and Battoe put away the final point.
“We were just trying to put Stephanie in the best position so she could set all three hitters,” Wolf said. “We’re doing a really good job of ball control. It’s improved a ton. We still have some things to improve, but right now we’re happy and we want to keep it up.”
Sophomore Micki Quakenbush led Normal with nine kills, junior middle Machayla Leonard added seven and Ginny Gerig and Erika Peoples each had 11 assists.
“I think the second game was more indicative of us as a team,” Normal coach Christine Konopasek said. “But even then there were stretches where we erred ourselves to the point where we were making it difficult to recover.
“But to lose to them is to lose to a really, really quality team,” she added. “They play 100 percent defense all the time and they run a super fast offense. They are a very, very good program.”