Register for Tryouts! Benet requires everyone to register online before you tryout. You will also need to turn in your current physical and impact form to the athletic office. http://il.8to18.com/benet/newsfullstory?newsid=95471
Make sure to visit our Facebook page to vote for our new uniforms!
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (May 20, 2015) – USA Volleyball is proud to announce its 20-player U.S. Girls’ Youth National Training Team (GYNTT) roster for 2015. These athletes will tryout for the 12 positions on the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team (GYNT) that will participate in this year’s FIVB Volleyball Girls’ Youth World Championship in Lima, Peru.
The GYNT is the highest level of programming for players born in 1998 or 1999. Team USA qualified for the World Championship after finishing with the silver medal at the 2014 NORCECA Women’s U18 Continental Championship in Costa Rica.
The GYNTT roster includes seven outside/opposite hitters, six middle blockers, four setters and three liberos. Kathryn Plummer (S, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Tstreet Volleyball Club, Southern California Region), who was captain of last year’s U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team, returns this year as a 6-6 setter. Libero Hailey Harward (Phoenix, Ariz., Aspire Volleyball Club, Arizona Region) is the only other returnee from the 2014 GYNT squad that won silver at the NORCECA Women’s U18 Continental Championship.
Outside/opposite hitters named to the GYNTT are Paige Hammons (Louisville, Ky., Kentucky Indiana Volleyball Association, Pioneer Region), Alexis Hart (Independence, Mo., Invasion, Heart of America Region), Khalia Lanier (Scottsdale, Ariz., AZ Storm, Arizona Region), Gia Milana (Armada, Mich., Oakland Elite Volleyball, Lakeshore Region), Jennifer Mosser (Lakeville, Minn., Minnesota Select, North Country Region), Mia Sokolowski (Tucson, Ariz., Zona Volleyball Club, Arizona Region) and Lexi Sun (Encinitas, Calif., Coast VBC, Southern California Region).
Middle blockers selected for the GYNTT are Brionne Butler (East Bernard, Texas, Texstar, Lone Star Region), Regan Pittman (Spring Hill, Kan., KC Power, Heart of America) Region, Lauren Sanders (Snohomish, Wash., Washington Volleyball Academy, Puget Sound Region), Lauren Stivrins (Scottsdale, Ariz., AZ Storm, Arizona Region), Ronika Stone (San Jose, Calif., Vision Volleyball Club, Northern California Region) and Stephanie Samedy (MB, Clermont, Fla., Top Select Volleyball Academy, Florida Region.
Joining Plummer at setter on the GYNTT roster are Sydney Hilley (Brooklyn Park, Minn., Minnesota Select, North Country Region), Madison Lilley (Overland Park, Kan., KC Power, Heat of America Region) and Ashley Shook (Plainfield, Ill., Sports Performance, Great Lakes Region).
Along with Harward, liberos picked for the GYNTT are Tiffany Clark (Naperville, Ill., Sports Performance, Great Lakes Region), and Morgan Hentz (Lakeside Park, Ky., Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club, Pioneer Region).
The final 12-player U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team will be determine through a second tryout of the 20-player roster scheduled to take place July 18-23 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The selected 12 players will continue training in Colorado Springs July 24-28 before heading to the FIVB Volleyball Girls’ Youth World Championship set for Aug. 7-16 in Peru.
Prior to the World Championship event, the GYNT travels to Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 28 to participate in a Pre-World Championship Competition hosted by the Argentina Volleyball Federation. The GYNT delegation will travel to Lima on Aug. 4 to train and acclimate before the World Championship.
“The FIVB World Championship will offer these talented athletes an opportunity to represent the USA on an international stage and compete with the best players in the world,” said U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team Head Coach Jim Stone, who returns for his eight consecutive season leading the GYNT program. “It is a wonderful challenge to compete successfully in this type of event with a short training window. I like the players we have in the mix and I'm confident we will represent the USA in a positive manner.”
Stone will be assisted by East Tennessee State University Head Coach Lindsey Devine, University of Central Florida Assistant Coach Michelle Chatman and Colorado State University’s Jared Hazel as technical coordinator.
U.S. Girls’ Youth National Training Team
Name (Position, Height, Hometown, Club, Region)
Brionne Butler (MB, 6-3, East Bernard, Texas, Texstar, Lone Star Region)
Tiffany Clark (L, 5-11, Naperville, Ill., Sports Performance, Great Lakes Region)
Paige Hammons (OH, 6-2, Louisville, Ky., Kentucky Indiana Volleyball Association, Pioneer Region)
Alexis Hart (OH, 6-1, Independence, Mo., Invasion, Heart of America Region)
Hailey Harward (L, 5-9, Phoenix, Ariz., Aspire Volleyball Club, Arizona Region)
Morgan Hentz (L, 5-9, Lakeside Park, Ky., Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club, Pioneer Region)
Sydney Hilley (S, 5-11, Brooklyn Park, Minn., Minnesota Select, North Country Region)
Khalia Lanier (OH, 6-2, Scottsdale, Ariz., AZ Storm, Arizona Region)
Madison Lilley (S, 5-11, Overland Park, Kan., KC Power, Heart of America Region)
Gia Milana (OH, 6-2, Armada, Mich., Oakland Elite Volleyball, Lakeshore Region)
Jennifer Mosser (OH, 5-11, Lakeville, Minn., Minnesota Select, North Country Region)
Regan Pittman (MB, 6-4, Spring Hill, Kan., KC Power, Heart of America Region)
Kathryn Plummer (S, 6-6, Aliso Viejo, Calif., Tstreet Volleyball Club, Southern California Region)
Stephanie Samedy (MB, 6-2, Clermont, Fla., Top Select Volleyball Academy, Florida Region)
Lauren Sanders (MB, 6-4, Snohomish, Wash., Washington Volleyball Academy, Puget Sound Region)
Ashley Shook (S, 6-1, Plainfield, Ill., Sports Performance, Great Lakes Region)
Mia Sokolowski (OH, 6-4, Tucson, Ariz., Zona Volleyball Club, Arizona Region)
Lauren Stivrins (MB, 6-4, Scottsdale, Ariz., AZ Storm, Arizona Region)
Ronika Stone (MB, 6-2, San Jose, Calif., Vision Volleyball Club, Northern California Region)
Lexi Sun (OH, 6-3, Encinitas, Calif., Coast VBC, Southern California Region)
Head Coach: Jim Stone
Assistant Coaches: Lindsey Devine, Michelle Chatman
Technical Coordinator: Jared Hazel
Team Leader: Erin Leaser
Congratulations to Tiffany Clark on being named to the PrepVolleyball.com Defensive Dandies as one of the best 25 defenders in the nation!! Here is how prep volleyball describes it:
"This is Part I of our Defensive Dandies recognition. We call Part I our “Dandy Lions.” The players on this list are all-around high school or club talents who project as back row animals at the collegiate level. Basically, if they can dig it up at an elite level but played all the way around for high school and/or club, they’re on this list. "
Congratulations to Marija on her commitment to play volleyball at the College of Wooster! Marija will be play for Wooster in the fall of 2015!! Congrats!!
Sara Nielsen has Big Ten volleyball in the bloodlines.
Her mom Gwen played collegiately at Northwestern, an aunt at Purdue.
She'll be joining that tradition in two years.
Nielsen, a sophomore and the setter on Benet's Class 4A championship team this past fall, has committed to Minnesota and former Olympic coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Nielsen pointed out that Minnesota has watched her since the eighth grade, but only intensified their interest over the last few months.
She toured the campus in early April, and after visiting California-Berkeley, decided to go with the Gophers over Cal and Wake Forest.
"I didn't know I was going to have an opportunity to play in the Big Ten," Nielsen said. "Looking back a few years, it's kind of a surprise."
Nielsen noted that she loved "everything" about Minnesota, but what stood out was the "gym culture" in place.
It reminded her of what she has at Benet and Sports Performance, where she plays for the club's top under-16 team.
"I really felt at home at Minnesota," said Nielsen, who is considering a business major. "The girls are like-minded. I felt I wouldn't have to compromise school-related. It's important that I like the school if volleyball isn't taken into consideration."
The coach helps, too.
Prior to coming to Minnesota in 2012, McCutcheon coached the U.S. Olympic men to the gold medal in 2008, and the women silver in 2012.
McCutcheon led Minnesota to a 27-8 record and NCAA Elite Eight berth his first year, and followed that up by reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013.
"Coach McCutcheon was great. It seems like he cares about his girls not just as players but as people," Nielsen said. "I liked talking to him about volleyball."
In her first full season as varsity setter, Nielsen helped lead Benet to a 41-1 record. Nielsen had 944 assists, 194 digs and 57 kills for the season, including 23 assists in Benet's state championship win over Libertyville.
Nielsen's 6-foot frame is ideal for the next level, just one of her physical tools.
"The more you watch her play, the more impressed you are," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "She is a pure setter and she sets a very hittable ball. When you find a player like that you want them."
Nielsen will need to get stronger as she transitions to the Big Ten, competing against the likes of Penn State and Nebraska, and she knows it.
"The Big Ten is extremely physical. You need to be strong and quick, and you need to be in the weight room," Baker said. "The kids the Big Ten schools are recruiting are athletes and physical players. She will have to compete with those players and attack them. But she's young and she has lots of room to grow."
Read the 2015 Volleyball Newsletter: 2014 year in a review, Looking back - 2011, 2015 Tryout Information, Summer Info, Dates to know and general facts!:
Congratulations to Sara Nielsen and Veronica Snelling for being named to the Prepvolleyball.com Soph 79 lists. The list reconizes the best sophomore age players in the nation!!
Congrats to Rachael Fara, Dana Griffin, Tiffany Clark and Natalie Canulli for being named to the prepvolleyball.com All-Americans list!! Congratulations!
Congratulations to Sara Nielsen for being one of 30 sophomores to be a finalists for PrepVolleyball.com national sophomore of the year!
Congratulations to Tiffany Clark for being named by PrepVolleyball.com as one of the top 85 junior recruits in the nation. She was one of 12 liberos to be on the list! Congrats!
Congratulations to Rachael Fara for being name 1st team All-American by Max-Preps!!
Here is what Max-Preps had to say:
MB - Rachael Fara, Benet Academy (Lisle, Ill.), 6-3 Sr.
Fara led Benet to the 4A state title and 41-1 record. She was state tournament MVP and MVP at the Benet Invite, Wheaton Classic and Mizuno Cup, as well as the East Suburban Catholic Conference Player of the Year. She was a first team all-state pick. The Northwestern recruit had a team-high 89 blocks to go with 229 kills.
Congratulations to Dana G. and Rachael F, for being chosen to play in the senior All-Star match!!
Link to ASG
Congratulations to the varsity team for finishing #5 in the nation by prepvolleyball.com and #6 in the nation by Maxpreps.
Here are some other highlights from the season:
41-1 (Most wins in school history)
41 wins is tied for the 7th most in state history
4A State Champions
Benet Invite Champions
Wheaton Classic Champions
Mizuno Cup Champions
2nd Place Autumnfest
32 Match Winning Streak (19th longest in state history)
#1 ranking in the Daily Herald
#1 ranking in the Chicago Suntimes
Benet sets new state record with 4A championship win over Libertyville
Libertyville found itself on the wrong side of history Saturday.
Benet, which avenged last year’s state title match loss to Mother McAuley at last weekend’s Hinsdale Central supersectional, won its third state title in the last four years, defeating Libertyville, 25-10, 25-10, in the IHSA Class 4A state championship at Redbird Arena.
“I think this really proves all the doubters wrong,” Benet middle hitter Rachael Fara said. “As a team, we came together and used that (last year’s loss) as fuel for this year. We knew no matter what, we’d have a hard road downstate.
“It doesn’t matter who’s in our sectional, who’s in our supersectional or anything like that. To be able to come back and win it is unbelievable. It’s a great honor and blessing for our team.”
In the process, the Redwings (41-1) set a new state record for the fewest points allowed in a state title match in the rally scoring era, breaking the record of 22 set by Breese Mater Dei against Marian Central in the 2011 Class 3A final.
“Defense is definitely a team effort,” said Benet libero Natalie Canulli, who had 16 digs. “Our coaching staff works so hard to scout for us, and our coach tells us that defense is worth two points, so it’s up to us to make the plays ultimately.”
Benet (41-1) grabbed an early 7-2 lead in Game 1 behind junior Tiffany Clark, who had three blocks including a stuff on Wildcats’ setter Liz Apgar that prompted a Wildcats’ timeout. Libertyville came out of the timeout with kills by Francesca Fusco (four kills) and Alex Basler to get within 9-7.
The Redwings answered with an 8-2 run behind kills from Dana Griffin (eight kills) and Marissa Tassone and three unforced errors to open a 17-9 lead. A kill by the Wildcats’ Annika Hawkinson’s tip temporarily stopped the bleeding, but Griffin’s kill down the line doubled up the score at 20-10.
Sophomore Veronica Snelling (eight kills) finally ended Game 1 at 25-10 with a crosscourt smash.
Game 2 started no better for Libertyville (35-7), which fell behind 7-1 on a pair of kills by Griffin and another well-placed pushed shot by Tassone. Kills by Clark and Snelling extended Benet’s lead to 12-3, and Clark added two more putaways to make it 14-3. The Wildcats never threatened after that.
“We pretty much had the preparation, and I think we were ready for it, it’s just a matter of stopping them and that’s a difficult task,” Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. “It’s a difficult task. Only one team did it all year.
“I’m really proud of what we did. I think the girls earned their place down here and to be in that match. It was unfortunate to play that way when it really matters. But that doesn’t take away from what we did this year.”
Sara Nielsen distributed 23 assists for Benet, which hit a staggering .362 for the match.
“We hang our hat playing defense,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “We held our opponents to negative hitting percentages in three out of the four games this weekend. Then when you hit 370 and you hold teams to negative, you get 25-10.”
Chicago Suntimes - by Phil B
“That 10 points is the best 10 points I’ve ever seen two teams play at a high level,” he said about the final 10 points of Saturday’s Hinsdale Central Class 4A Supersectional against defending state champion Mother McAuley.
“To serve receive and to pass and to be able to set all options. It was unbelievable. It was almost like surreal. It was like, ‘Is this really going on?’ I’ve been involved in a ton of volleyball matches. Awesome. Awesome.”
Baker was talking about the final 10 points of the match, but he just as easily could have been talking about all 124 points it took to decide what many were calling the true Class 4A state championship match.
After rallying from down six points to win Game 1 and squandering a 19-16 lead in Game 2, Benet fought off eight set points and finally converted on its sixth match point to defeat McAuley, 27-25, 37-35, and earn a berth in next week’s semifinals at Redbird Arena.
Outside hitter Dana Griffin, who watched from the bench when Benet (39-1) won the 2012 state title, led the winners with 12 kills.
“We made it a point this match that they would have to kill us before we stopped trying hard every single point,” she said. “We had to use our momentum as much as we could. We had to fight for every single point. It was a bloodbath.”
McAuley (36-4) broke a 10-10 tie in Game 1 and used a kill from junior Kayla Caffey and a Benet error to ease to a 20-14 lead. But the Redwings stormed back, fighting off two set points and pulling even at 24-24 on back-to-back McAuley errors.
A kill by sophomore Veronica Snelling put Benet ahead 26-25, and a slide by 6-foot-3 senior middle hitter Rachael Fara ended the set at 27-25.
Trailing 19-16 in Game 2, McAuley pushed ahead at 20-19 on Kennedy Arundel’s block. Benet rallied to earn match points at 24-22 and 24-23, but the Mighty Macs fought off both points and earned a set point at 25-24. Tiffany Clark got Benet even at 25-25, setting off the final furious finish.
Benet thought it won the match at 31-29, but a Redwing kill was ruled to have grazed the antenna. McAuley earned set points at 33-32, 34-33 and 35-34, but two McAuley errors sandwiched around a Snelling kill put the match to rest.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” McAuley’s Kelsey Clark said. “We just gave everything we had. We left it all on the court, and if it didn’t come our way, then it didn’t come our way. We played together as a team, and that’s all that matters.”
Clark led McAuley with 11 kills and a block. Ryann DeJarld added nine kills and three aces, Caffey and Arundel (six digs) both added eight kills, Amber Casey had 21 assists, junior Jane DeJarld added 15 assists and Carla Cahill contributed nine digs.
“We had to meet up somewhere,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. They (Benet) played a tremendous game tonight. We played not to lose. I could tell in their faces and in their eyes. Emotions were running very high.
“They made a major comeback against us, and we made a major comeback against them, so I couldn’t ask them (her team) to play any harder.”
Snelling added nine kills for Benet, which also got five kills and five digs from junior Tiffany Clark, seven digs from Natalie Canulli, 34 assists from sophomore setter Sara Nielsen and seven kills and two blocks from Fara.
“Matches like these are the reason we play volleyball, and it’s the reason why I love my team so much,” Fara said. “We asked them to give their all tonight. We asked that from each other.”
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.”
Chicago Suntimes Article by Phil B
The site of the Class 4A regional championship match between Benet and St. Charles North was switched to Benet at the last minute Thursday when all after-school activities, including sports, were cancelled at Neuqua Valley.
Not that the Redwings needed any additional advantage.
Benet opened the match on a 12-6 run and closed it on a 12-6 run to defeat St. Charles North, 25-11, 25-21, and advance to next week’s sectional at Bartlett.
“We’re just excited to play,” said sophomore setter Sara Nielsen, who finished with 30 assists, three kills and two aces. “There are a lot of really good teams in Benet history, but this is a new team. This is a new group of girls. We just want to take it as far as we can with this group.”
Benet (36-1) put the pedal to the floor early in Game 1, riding the hot hands of Dana Griffin and sophomore Veronica Snelling en route to a 19-8 lead.
“We were playing as a team really well and just working together and executing everything we’ve been working on,” Snelling said. “We were just flowing well in the first set. The passes were there. Sara’s sets were great. It was all going well.
But St. Charles North (27-10) changed its lineup in Game 2, hung with the Redwings early and eventually ran off four straight points to take a 15-13 lead and force a Benet timeout.
“We were trying to match up in that first set with our better blockers with their better hitters,” St. Charles North coach Lindsey Hawkins said. “They were hitting some amazing shots that I don’t know how they were hitting.
“In the second set, we tried to put our big block up first. I thought the girls responded well in the second set. They started getting used to what Benet was running and the tempo they were running.”
Benet took the lead for good at 19-18 on a kill by Rachael Fara, and Snelling’s tip over the block at match point sent the Redwings to their eighth consecutive sectional appearance.
“St. Charles North is a good team,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “They have some good offensive players. They have some big kids all over the place. They start four six-footers. They have size and they know how to play. They were conference champs for a reason. They’re a good team.”
Junior Claire Anderson led the North Stars with seven kills. 6-1 junior Jaclyn Taylor had four kills, three blocks and 10 assists, 6-3 junior Daley Krage added five kills and a block, Taryn Del Degan had 13 assists and Megan Russell added nine digs.
Benet got nine kills each from Snelling and Griffin. Marissa Tassone added five kills and two blocks, Fara added four kills and two blocks, Tiffany Clark had four kills and six digs and Natalie Canulli added 12 digs.
“It’s a tough draw,” Hawkins said. “You got to take it for what it is. Benet is a great team. They clearly came to play despite everything that was going on.”
Congratulations to the Sophomore and Varsity teams for winning the ESCC conference championship! The ESCC is regarded by most as the toughest and deepest conference in the state of the IL. Congrats!!
Chicago Suntimes article by Phil B
When things got tight in the third game of the championship match of the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup on Saturday at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora, Benet turned to its MVP.
“When a hitter gets hot, a setter will just keep setting them,” Benet’s 6-3 middle hitter Rachael Fara said. “I guess that’s how it worked out today. That just shows how good the rest of the team is and how disciplined they are in their defense and getting the ball to the setter.”
After watching Plainfield North run off four unanswered points to cut into its 20-12 lead in Game 3, Benet turned to Fara. The Northwestern-bound senior responded with four straight kills as the Redwings held on to defeat the Tigers 25-19, 14-25, 25-18 and claim their third tournament title of the season.
The victory was vindication for the Benet seniors and juniors, who were on a Great Lakes court a year ago when the Redwings’ streak of 11 consecutive regular-season tournament championships ended with a pool-play loss to Naperville Central.
“I know for the seniors and for the other juniors who were on the team last year, that was a really hard tournament,” Benet sophomore setter Sara Nielsen said. “They all had that memory in their minds coming into this tournament. They wanted to make up for it this year.”
Benet (27-0) seemed comfortably on its way to the title in Game 1, building a 17-11 lead on a kill by Dana Griffin and winning the set on a slam by Fara. But Plainfield North (21-8) opened Game 2 on a 7-1 run, and after Benet got within 13-11, the Tigers pulled away for the easy win.
“They played really well in Game 2,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Plainfield North has some very talented kids, and in Game 2 I thought they played outstanding. If they play like that, they’re going to win a lot of ballgames. We played OK, they just played excellent.”
But in Game 3, a trio of dumps by Nielsen and back-to-back kills by Griffin gave the Redwings a 10-4 lead. Griffin later scored on a get-me-over dig to extend the advantage to 20-12 before the Tigers countered with four straight points.
Enter Fara, who was named the tournament’s MVP.
“We like it always to be Rachael time,” Baker said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, and we want to make sure everybody’s getting repetitions at this time of the year so they’re ready to go when we need them.”
Griffin led Benet in the title match with 11 kills and two aces, Fara added nine kills, sophomore Veronica Snelling had six kills and Nielsen finished with 28 assists and five kills.
Chicago Suntimes article - by Phil B
Benet sophomore setter Sara Nielsen was nearly pressed into action last year at the Wheaton Classic when regular setter Stephanie Sinnappan fell ill moments before the championship match. But Nielsen remained on the bench when Sinnappan returned and led the Redwings to the tournament title.
Fast forward one year. Sinnappan has graduated, and Nielsen is now running the show.
Saturday in the championship match against surprise finalist Libertyville, Nielsen handed out 19 assists and added an ace, two blocks and a kill as Benet claimed its fourth consecutive Wheaton Classic title and sixth in the last seven years, 25-10, 25-18.
Sophomore Veronica Snelling was the recipient of eight of those assists. Tournament MVP Rachael Fara added five kills and a block, junior Tiffany Clark had four kills and an ace and Dana Griffin had three kills, three aces, a block and 17 digs for No. 3 Benet (14-0).
Nielsen admitted that the weapons she has at her disposal and a defense anchored by Natalie Canulli and Juliana Melby (five digs) make her job easier.
“We have so many great hitters in all different positions, the back row defense is great, everyone makes it so easy for everything to flow together,” she said. “Today, we really focused on our side of the net and doing what we needed to do. Our goal is to be the best defensive team in state.”
That defense limited Libertyville (16-4) to just four kills in Game 1.
“If we can extend rallies with our defense and make people hit shots that they’re not comfortable hitting, that’s part of our goal defensively,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “We had some good game plans going in and I thought our kids did a nice job executing the game plans.
“It helps having kids who played in the back row last year so they understand our defensive scheme. They are able to run it a little crisper, whereas last year we weren’t as fluid defensively as we are right now.”
Having two capable setters in Nielsen and senior Meghan Weber is also a bonus.
“Meghan’s a great setter, and Sara is a great setter, so we feel comfortable,” Baker said. “Right now, Sara’s running the show and she’s is doing a great job.”
Libertyville, which stunned Marist 13-25, 25-18, 25-16 in the quarterfinals and rocked Sandburg 25-21, 20-25, 25-23 in the semifinals, got four kills and block from Alex Basler and three kills and block from junior Hannah Zerwas.
“We can smile about (losing in the final) because we knew we were going to run out of gas,” Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. “We played a very long day of volleyball against some really great teams. Win or lose, it’s good for us toward the end of the season. But we’ll take the wins.”
Naperville Sun Article - by Josh Welge
It is the unofficial last weekend of summer, but Benet treats it as a first step forward. And the Redwings are off and running again.
No. 3 Benet won its eight-team Benet Invitational for the fourth straight year — seventh in the last eight — topping No. 9 Hinsdale Central 25-14, 25-23 Saturday in the championship match in Lisle.
Benet will participate in bigger tournaments as the season progresses, starting with the Wheaton Classic in mid-September. This provides a good early barometer.
“It’s always nice to get tested early in the season just to see where we’re at,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “To beat somebody 25-15, it doesn’t really show what you got. It’s great to know that we have it in us when we’re pushed.”
Benet got that push in Game 2.
After never trailing in the first game — aided by 14 Hinsdale Central errors — Benet found itself down 17-14 in the second after an ace by Hinsdale’s Alexandra Davis. Rachael Fara answered with a kill and a block, and threw down another kill for an 18-18 tie.
At 21-21, Benet outside Dana Griffin placed a kill down the line, and at match point, sophomore lefty Veronica Snelling connected with a kill off the block.
“I love playing good teams like that,” said Fara, the Northwestern-bound senior who was named tournament MVP. “Hinsdale played much better in that second game. They brought it to us.”
Fara had four of her five kills in Game 2, also finishing with two blocks. It’s no secret Benet wants to get its 6-3 middle touches.
“You want to get her the ball,” Baker said. “But you have to do a lot of good things to get Rachael the ball.”
Hinsdale Central, 11-19 a year ago, perhaps served notice it’s a new year by beating St. Francis to win the Sports Performance summer league. The Red Devils acquitted themselves much better in Saturday’s second game.
Red Devils senior Lauren Fuller, in particular, came alive with eight of her 10 kills.
“For the seniors it was our last game in this tournament,” said the 6-3 Fuller, committed to San Diego. “We wanted to prove ourselves.”
Griffin had seven kills, Snelling six and Tiffany Clark eight digs for Benet (5-0), which earlier beat York 25-14, 25-21 to reach the final. Sophomore setter Sarah Nielsen had 18 assists.
Nielsen and Snelling were two girls getting their first varsity experience this weekend; others are playing more significant roles.
“We have lots of kids playing new roles, and it takes a while to come together,” Baker said. “We saw some flashes this tournament.”
Congratulations to Caroline Wolf on being named 1st Team - “Gym Dandies” by Prepvolleyball.com. "Gym Dandies " are full time back row players, both high school and club, who work their butts off during practice and play to help the team at all costs. These are the best defenders in the nation.
Here is what Prepvolleyball.com had to say about Caroline:
Caroline Wolf, Sr., Benet Academy (Lisle, Illinois) – Wolf helped Benet win a Class 4A title in 2012 and secure a 4A runner-up finish in 2013, where she set a Benet single-season mark for digs with 562 (breaking the old school record by 150). Wolf earned First TeamAll-State and All-Conference honors and was named to the All-Area teams by the Daily Herald and Naperville Sun. As a varsity player, Wolf was on teams that went 76-8 and won six of eight tournaments."
Congratulations to Natalie and Tiffany for making the 2013 Prepvolleyball.com "Dandy Lions" list! Prepvolleyball.com describes these players on this list as all-around high school or club talents who project as back row animals at the collegiate level! Congrats!