Chicago Suntimes By Phil Brozynski
Benet headed to 4A final with win over Crystal Lake South
NORMAL, Ill. – Benet had runs. Crystal Lake South did, too. But then again, too few to mention.
The Redwings closed Game 1 on a 14-5 run and opened the second set with a 12-3 explosion. It added up to a 25-22, 25-18 victory over the Gators and a berth in the championship match of the Class 4A tournament at Redbird Arena.
Benet (36-5) will play for its third consecutive Class 4A state title Saturday at 8:55 p.m.
For awhile, however, the Redwings’ 19-match winning streak in state tournament play was in jeopardy. The Gators jumped out to a 17-11 lead before the Redwings slowly crept back into the match. A kill and service ace by Ashley Hitchcock finally pulled Benet even at 21-21.
“I thought we played with great resolve,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “That’s kind of how our season’s been. We’ve had challenges the whole season long. At times we’ve had to fight and continue to play hard.
“Tonight’s match was just like that …never giving up and just continuing to play hard the whole time no matter what the score is or what the situation is,” he said. “It’s a game of runs. Crystal Lake South did a great job of having runs in the second set. We were just able to stave off their runs.”
Crystal Lake South (37-4) used a couple of short runs to cut into a 17-9 Benet lead in the second set. The Gators closed to within 20-17 on a kill by Carly Nolan and two attack errors by the Redwings. But 6-3 junior Rachael Fara answered with four of her match-high nine kills to turn the Gators back.
“At the beginning, I was really antsy, I wasn’t thinking straight and missed a couple of sets,” she said. “It all seemed like a dream. Finally, I said, ‘Hey, this is real and it’s go time.’ Stephanie [Sinnappan] had great sets. Everything was awesome. It was great.”
Junior Dana Griffin added six kills for Benet, which also got four kills apiece by Battoe, Marija Cyvas and Hitchcock (two aces), and 21 assists and seven digs from Sinnappan. Natalie Canulli had two of Benet’s seven aces.
“I think we did a great job of staying calm and playing our game,” Wolf said. “We’ve been down in the playoffs before. Each time we came into a timeout we had nothing but positive things to say. Everybody did great job of staying calm and fighting back.”
Carly Nolan led Crystal Lake South with six kills, and Nicole Slimko and Avalon Nero both had four. Cassy Sivesind had 12 assists.
“I have a some wonderful athletes, some confident athletes, but you can’t help feeling a little nervous the first time playing in an arena like this,”
Crystal Lake South coach Jorie Fontana said. “That outburst of confidence at the beginning of the first set kind of felt untouchable. Then as things started to creep back, the nerves and things started to play a part.”