Chicago Suntimes By Phil Brozynski
Playing near-flawless defense and getting contributions from 11 different players, Benet (34-5) defeated Naperville North 25-21, 25-13 to win its third consecutive sectional championship and advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. supersectional against the hosts at Normal Community.
About an hour before the championship match Thursday at the Class 4A Plainfield South Sectional, Benet setter Stephanie Sinnappan was sitting alone a couple of rows up in the corner of the stands with her head down and eyes closed.
“I wasn’t sick or anything, that’s me visualizing,” said Sinnappan, who had to leave the court moments before the championship match at the Wheaton Classic earlier this season due to a little intestinal distress.
So how did her visions turn out?
“Fantastic,” she said. “Better than I could imagine.”
Playing near-flawless defense and getting contributions from 11 different players, Benet defeated Naperville North 25-21, 25-13 to win its third consecutive sectional championship and advance to Saturday’s 7 p.m. supersectional against the hosts at Normal Community.
Sinnappan led Benet (34-5) with 18 assists, three blocks and a kill, 5-foot-11 junior Dana Griffin added 11 kills, 6-3 junior middle Rachael Fara added four kills and two blocks, and Caroline Wolf had 12 digs including some highlight-reel saves.
“We had great defense,” Griffin said. “They had a lot of really, really good hits at the beginning of the game. We had to work hard for every point. We know they’re a good team and have a lot of good players. We knew we had to step up every point.”
Benet jumped out to leads of 13-6 and 23-16 in Game 1, but Naperville North (34-5) used runs of 6-1 and 5-1 to pull within 24-21 before Griffin closed out the first set with a kill off the block. Six service errors contributed to the Huskies’ first-set woes.
“I think Benet played lights out,” said Naperville North coach Jennifer Urban, whose team was looking for its first sectional title since 2004. “We’ve seen them a couple of times on film and that’s the best we’ve seen them play.
“Missing six serves was tough because I think we played pretty well in the first game despite the missed serves. In the second game they really played lights out. They found every opening on our court and exposed our weaknesses.”
In Game 2, Benet overcame an early 4-2 deficit with a 14-3 run. Naperville North never recovered. Griffin finished it off with a tip over the block.
Emily Mankowski and Lexi Turek each had seven kills for the Huskies, who also got 12 assists and an ace from junior setter Emily Kwak. Whitney Battoe added three kills and Sinnappan and Kelly O’Malley each added five digs for Benet.
“I’m on cloud nine right now,” Sinnappan said. “I just want to keep going. I want to keep practicing. I’m happy, but this is not it.”