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updated: 9/16/2012 12:10 AM

Benet's stamina staggers Wheaton Classic field

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By D.J. Wanberg
Daily Herald Correspondent

Endurance is a key component of many sports, including volleyball.

The Benet girls team started Saturday at the Wheaton Classic Invitational at Wheaton Warrenville South with a two-set quarterfinal victory over Naperville Central.

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Next came Sandburg in a Gold Division semifinal. The Redwings and Eagles went three sets, with Benet prevailing.

There was no time to savor that win. The Redwings rehydrated, perhaps got a quick snack and went right back to work in the championship final.

Their energy level stayed high as they finished off East Suburban Catholic Conference rival Marist 25-20, 25-16 to win the tournament title.

It's Benet's fourth title at the competition in the last five seasons. The Redwings have yet to be beaten after playing 14 opponents.

"We knew what we would be going into the season. You just don't know how good everyone else is going to be," said Benet coach Brad Baker.

The intensity of Saturday's competition, and the enthusiasm and energy needed to succeed at that level, showed that Benet's hard work with training and practice is paying off.

"Our team played so well. We came to win," said senior Nicki Barnes, who led Benet against Marist (6-3) with 7 kills. "We knew we would be ready for this. We train hard."

A kill by Cara Mattaliano pushed the Redwings to an 8-2 lead in Set 1 against Marist. The Redhawks stayed to within 4 to 6 points until a kill by Mallory Salis and a return error by Benet pulled Marist to within 20-19.

Barnes then took over serving, and blocks by Mattaliano, Brittany Pavich and a kill by Caileen Moran put the Redwings up 23-20 before they closed it out.

Benet jumped on Marist early in Game 2, and two straight kills by Barnes put the Redwings up 11-3. Later, a block by Abby Willett gave Benet a 21-9 lead. Marist rallied somewhat, pulling to within 9, but the Redwings finished it.

Sheila Doyle finished with 11 digs.

The Redwings' three-set battle against Sandburg in the semifinals started with a 25-18 Game 1 win. The Eagles needed a small rally to overtake Benet in Game 2 and win 26-24. The Redwings got to work right away in Game 3 and led by as much as 10, winning 25-17.

"We work hard in practice. When we're running hills and it's 90 degrees outside that may not be much fun, but it gave us the energy and stamina to compete today," Baker said.

Marist will get a rematch with Benet. The two teams meet in ESCC competition Sept. 27 at Marist.

"It's been a great season so far, a lot of fun," Doyle said.

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