Daily Herald - by Josh Welge
Benet will not doubt be a better team with Brittany Pavich.
But even without her, at Benet it's still business as usual.
The No. 2 Redwings won their own Benet Invite for the third straight year — sixth in the last seven — rallying minus their best hitter past York 20-25, 25-21, 25-16 in Saturday's championship match.
Whitney Battoe, one of several Redwings getting their first taste of varsity action this weekend, put down a match-high 15 kills, including game point in the second and 4 more in Game 3.
"For a lot of us this is the first time we've started, so we're really excited to win this," said Battoe, a senior outside. "We really pushed ourselves in the preseason and club season. We were ready for today."
Pavich, a Boston College-bound senior middle is maybe the best at her position in the state. But she hasn't practiced yet because of shoulder tendinitis. Baker doesn't expect her back until at least the Wheaton Classic in mid-September, but isn't making any excuses in the meantime.
Even with a healthy Pavich, Benet would be breaking in this year a new setter, libero and all new pin hitters off last year's team that repeated as Class 4A state champs.
"We say if you're on the court, you better perform," Baker said. "We don't care who it is or what your name is. If we don't get Brittany back we're not using it as a crutch. If she doesn't come back she doesn't come back. If she does come back we're the better for it."
Much like Cara Mattaliano last year, Battoe had minimal varsity experience before her senior year. Just two years ago, she was a defensive specialist.
She's ready to make a similar name for herself.
"Cara was a huge role model for me. I'm excited to step up and take her position," Battoe said. "I want to be the best outside hitter in the state, to prove I'm ready for the challenge."
Benet (5-0) dominated its first four matches of the weekend, including a 25-14, 25-16 win over York in Friday pool play, but was pushed by the Dukes the second time around.
That was fine by Baker, who got 5 kills each from Natalie Canulli and Rachael Fara, 21 digs from Caroline Wolf and 35 assists by Stephanie Sinnappan. Incredibly, Benet has finished first in its last 10 tournaments dating back to 2010 — 12 straight if you include the 2011 and 2012 state tournaments.
"New names, but the results end up being the same," Baker said. "There's definitely things to learn and pages of stuff we can get better at," Baker said. "In my book that's a good thing when you can win championships and still see huge room for improvement."
York gave Benet 13 points off errors in the third game Saturday, but Dukes coach Patty Iverson had much to build on.
Her team rallied to beat No. 4 Waubonsie Valley 25-23, 29-27 in a semifinal Saturday, and against Benet managed 16 blocks. Amy Nosek had 11 kills and 10 digs, Claudia Zerdin 6 kills and 7 digs, Halle Truett 7 digs and Rachel Iverson 17 assists.
"We do some things really well. We blocked really well today," said Iverson, whose team is back at Benet Wednesday night for a non-conference match. Little things like covering, playing defense and too many missed serves hurt us. Ooverall I thought we played pretty well but our errors hurt us."
Waubonsie let a Game 1 lead, and the match, slip away against York, but rebounded to beat Neuqua Valley for the second time in two days, 25-19, 25-23 in the third-place match.
"We were hoping to see Benet in the championship match to see how we matched up but I'm sure we'll see them down the line," said Warriors coach Kristen Stuart.
Stuart switched up to a 6-2 on Saturday, setter Rachel Minarick stepping up with 13 kills against Neuqua.
"We tried a lot of different things to figure our our best lineup," Stuart said. "Rachel did a great job hitting. I think we'll be using that option more."