Daily Herald Article
Three weeks ago, Benet Academy girls volleyball coach Brad Baker said his team had some work to do following a hard-fought loss to Geneva in the Wheaton Classic title match.
That hard work and stick-to-itiveness paid dividends when the two teams met again in the St. Charles East/Mizuno Cup championship Saturday afternoon at the Great Lakes Volleyball Center in Aurora.
Junior Lilly Johnson delivered a team-high 11 kills to help lead the Redwings (24-3) to a 26-24, 27-25 victory over previously unbeaten Geneva (23-1).
Trailing 23-19 in the second set, the Redwings rallied to tie the score at 24-24 on a block by sophomore Anna Paoni.
After senior Ally Barrett knocked down the last of her 11 kills, giving Geneva its last lead at 25-24, Johnson's block knotted the score at 25-25 and the 6-foot-2 outside hitter recorded back-to-back kills as the Redwings captured their third consecutive Mizuno Cup title.
"Since we lost that one game (to Geneva), we came back with a fighting spirit and all we wanted do is win," said Johnson.
Claire Byrne (8 kills), Veronica Snelling (7 kills, ace), Sara Nielsen (3 kills, 33 assists, ace), and Lauren Barnes (15 digs, ace) supported the cause as Benet fought back from late deficits in both sets.
"We've been working on pressure situations, making sure we can perform when it matters most and that second game -- we did," said Baker. "We've gone through a litany of injuries but we're as healthy and stable a lineup as we've been all season."
There isn't much separating the two teams, evidenced by the fact that all 4 sets ended in extended time (Geneva won 31-29, 29-27 on Sept. 17).
"We had to expect them to play great and we were going to have to play great to stay with them," said Baker, whose team defeated St. Charles East 29-27, 25-17 in the semifinals.
Senior outside hitter Grace Loberg led the Vikings with 13 kills, while Mikayla Lanasa had 26 assists and a pair of aces, and Molly Lambillotte added 2 aces.
"That's the great game of volleyball," said Vikings coach Annie Seitelman. "One thing here, one thing there and that's the difference.
"I thought we did a nice job staying aggressive but they had some great swings. Benet is a great team. This is high-level volleyball and it's why we come to this tournament. We want to compete against the best."
Earlier, Geneva survived a semifinal scare during its 25-21, 26-28, 25-17 triumph over Minooka behind Loberg (18 kills), Barrett (14 kills, 2 aces) and Ally Mullen (7 kills).
Late aces from Julia Brown and Lanasa pushed the Vikings into the title match against what is becoming a familiar foe in Benet.
"There's a good chance we could see them down the road again," Seitelman said of a potential supersectional clash.