Chicago Suntimes - By Phil Brozynski
When push came to shove in the Class 4A regional championship Thursday at Plainfield East, Benet did all the shoving.
“I think both sides played outstanding defense, but their hitters … they’re tall, their powerful, they just overpowered us,” Lockport coach Erika Lange said.
Dana Griffin, a five-foot-11 junior, had 10 kills, 5-11 Ashley Hitchcock added eight kills, 6-foot-3 Rachael Fara had four kills and three blocks and 6-foot setter Stephanie Sinnappan added 28 assists as the two-time defending state champions defeated Lockport 25-18, 25-16.
Benet (32-5) advances to play Waubonsie Valley (30-7) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 4A sectional at Plainfield South. Lockport exits at 22-14.
After trailing 13-11 in Game 1 and finding themselves tied at 11 in Game Two, the Redwings closed both games on 14-5 runs.
Back-to-back kills by Natalie Canulli gave Benet a 20-15 lead in Game 1 to force a Lockport timeout, and a diving dig by Tiffany Clark that fell behind the Lockport defense handed the Redwings a 22-15 lead in Game 2.
But it was the one-two punch of Griffin and Hitchcock that sent Benet to the sectional semifinals for the seventh consecutive year.
“I think that was one of my best games I’ve had so far,” said Griffin, who did not see the court until late in the season. “After practicing with my team, we’ve gotten a lot better. I’m really happy with what happened out there.
“We just have to stay calm throughout the match and have the confidence that we can do it,” she added. “I think the intensity that comes with the last points of the game really amp up our energy, our want to win. That really helps us finish out games.”
Griffin and Hitchcock had only five kills between them in Game 1, leaving the early work to Canulli (two kills, two aces) and Fara.
“Lockport did a great job blocking us during the first half of each set,” Hitchcock said. “But our passing was phenomenal and our middles were able to take the middle blockers with them. The pin hitters were able to get one-on-one situations, we got great sets and we were able to put the ball away.”
Benet also got 17 digs from libero Caroline Wolf and 10 digs from Clark.
“We have a game plan and we stick to it for as long as it takes,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “We also say that if you find somebody that’s hot, keep getting them the ball and let’s just keep going there until we get to 25 (points).”
Kayla Pfeiffer led Lockport with six kills, six assists and 13 digs. Amber Stefanski added four kills and three blocks, and Olivia Witsaman added four kills, seven assists and eight digs.
“Their (Benet’s) blocking was a little weak at the beginning of Game 1, but they picked up their blocking and we had to find some different angles that were weaker for us,” Lange said. “Benet is a very, very good team. They deserved that win tonight.”