Article by Josh Welge
Jennie Kull has been coaching volleyball long enough to know a match can hang in the balance at any moment.
So it was Thursday.
Back and forth Kull’s St. Charles East Saints traded points with top-seeded Benet in an epic Game 1.
Both had two game points turned away, Benet getting it done on the third try to take it 29-27.
“As we were walking to the other side I thought, ‘Darn it,’” Kull said. “When you do everything in your power and it doesn’t go your way it bursts your bubble.”
Benet went on to burst that bubble, beating St. Charles East 29-27, 25-16 in the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional final.
Benet’s fourth win over the Saints (30-9) this year and fourth straight sectional title sets up a Saturday supersectional match versus Mother McAuley at Hinsdale Central.
McAuley beat Benet (38-1) in last year’s state final, and also handed the Redwings their only loss this year.
“We’re excited,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “This is where we want to be.”
Sophomore outside Veronica Snelling had seven of her 10 kills in Game 1 Thursday for Benet. None were bigger than Snelling’s spike into the back left corner to make it 28-27, a second-chance hit after the Saints denied her with an improbable dig.
Moments later an East quick-set attempt went long. Snelling and her teammates could breathe easier.
“St. Charles East played a great first game,” Snelling said. “The whole time we were supporting each other. No matter what we kept that trust. I think that’s what pulled us through.”
The game had a match’s worth of back and forth.
Snelling’s tip over a double block got Benet out to a big 10-3 start. East, serving aggressively to take its opponent out of system, answered with a 15-5 run, Mikaela Mosquera blocking Snelling for a 16-15 lead that became 18-15.
A long Benet serve got East to game point 24-23, but Dana Griffin’s tip for the Redwings kept it going.
“We had the momentum early and they stole it back,” Baker said. “We were able to take it back, it steamrolled into the second and we never gave it back.”
Benet in fact was hardly challenged in Game 2 after a 10-4 start. East sabotaged any further hopes with 14 errors — including Benet’s first seven points of the game.
“We ran out of steam,” Kull said. “The girls did everything they could. That’s a team that at the beginning of the season we didn’t think we’d be competing with.”
Griffin had five kills, including match point, and 10 digs for Benet. Clark also had five kills, Rachael Fara four and Sara Nielsen 25 assists.
Megan Schildmeyer had six kills and 11 assists and Kyla Augustine six kills for East, who had taken Benet to three games at Mizuno Cup.
“You don’t get here unless you’re playing good volleyball, and (East) is playing well,” Baker said. “No matter if we had played them four times or not we expected a good match.”