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updated: 9/10/2012 10:23 PM

Benet keeps proving itself

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Benet and Downers Grove North both lost key pieces off last year's winning teams.

Rebuilding is going in two distinctly different directions.

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The No. 3 Redwings remained unbeaten Monday, rolling past winless Downers Grove North 25-18, 25-13 in Lisle.

Benet (9-0) hasn't so much as dropped a set this season. If that's a surprise to some, it isn't at all to the Benet girls.

"We knew at the beginning of the season that we'd have to work hard to prove ourselves," said Benet senior outside Cara Mattaliano. "It's paying off."

Benet's win is its 29th straight dating back to last year, a streak that is the 19th-longest all-time, according to the IHSA record book.

The Redwings' last loss came to Marist, who Benet coincidentally could see this weekend. Marist and Benet are the top two seeds at the Wheaton Classic. Benet coach Brad Baker doesn't sound like a guy resting on his laurels.

"We just talked about, 'Let's not get comfortable,'" Baker said, "because this is a long season. We're playing well, but there are lots of areas that we can improve on. That needs to be our focus. Our record is nice, we'll stash that away, but we have to continue to get better."

Mattaliano and junior middle Brittany Pavich both had 6 kills for Benet. Five of Mattaliano's came during the more competitive first set. Three of her kills came during a 4-0 run that opened the Redwings' lead up to 15-8. Mattaliano, stuck on the bench last year behind a host of talented hitters, is one of many Benet girls showing what she's capable of this year.

"We've known Cara's been a very good player for a while," Baker said. "Sometimes it's hard to get on the floor. She's taking advantage of her opportunity this year."

"I felt like just as much a part of the team last year," Mattaliano said. "I'm just getting to show it on the court now."

Tied 3-3 in the second set, Benet put the match away with a 10-0 run aided by six Trojans errors. Both sides substituted liberally after that.

Hannah Kaminsky and Sheila Doyle had 19 assists and 7 digs, respectively, for Benet. Both are seniors, which Downers Grove North is in short supply of.

The 0-5 Trojans played three freshmen Monday, surrounding talented junior hitter Katherine Mahlke, who had a match-high 7 kills. Downers Grove North switched offenses Monday, going to a 6-2 with Mahlke outside.

"You throw a few sophomores in there -- we're young," Trojans coach Mark Wasik said. "We're sort of 'varsity light' right now."

Hannah Rogoz had 4 kills and libero Carolyn Nojiri 8 digs for Downers Grove North. Wasik isn't sounding the alarms about a slow start to the season, with good reason. It's nothing new. Last year Downers Grove North started 4-9 before finishing with 22 wins and a regional title.

"We actually took steps forward tonight from the way we've been playing," Wasik said. "I'm not concerned with our score against a quality team like Benet. I'm concerned with us improving. We'll get there."

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