Benet found out from the IHSA this week that to win a regional, it may need to beat Naperville Central on its home floor.
If Thursday is any indication, the Redwings travel well.
In front of a boisterous crowd at Joliet Catholic, No. 3 Benet looked sharp in dusting off the host Angels 25-14, 25-22.
Benet (19-2, 3-2 East Suburban Catholic Conference) dropped three-set matches at Marian Catholic and Marist last week. This time the Redwings never let its hosts have any momentum.
"Tonight was a great environment, everybody screaming and yelling. You can't simulate the postseason, but this is as close as you're going to get," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "To be able to travel and play on the road in a hostile environment and win is great. That's exactly what we'll have to do in the postseason."
As it does so often, Benet's relentless defense set the tone.
A 9-0 run in the first set gave the Redwings a commanding 23-12 lead. In two big points outside Cara Mattaliano laid out for a diving dig, leading to a Nicki Barnes kill in the back corner; moments later Barnes one-armed a dig to set up a Mattaliano kill.
Eight of Benet's points during the run came on the serve of ace libero Sheila Doyle, who also had 8 digs to go with 2 aces. Mattaliano added 4 digs to go with her match-high 12 kills.
"We have a mentality that no balls are going to hit the floor," Mattaliano said. "Everybody gave everything to get every single ball, and it paid off."
Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe came away impressed by Benet's defense on tape, and it didn't disappoint.
"They're in defensive position every single play," Scheibe said. "I told my girls it's not going to be easy because they're always in position and we're going to have to keep going at them. Unfortunately, we didn't pass well enough tonight to keep going at them."
Scheibe's star outside Morgan Reardon, coming off a 25-kill outing in a win over St. Francis at the Asics Challenge Saturday, was a clear focus of Benet's defense.
The Redwings consistently put up a double block to counter Reardon, with Doyle and others waiting in the wings to dig out any balls that passed through. Reardon had 7 kills but also had her share of errant shots. A wide hit gave Benet the lead for good at 15-14 in the second set, and on the next point Benet middle Brittany Pavich rose to block Reardon. JCA never again got within 2 points.
"We want to frustrate people," Baker said, "put up a big block and play defense around that, force people to hit shots that they're uncomfortable with. We have some defenders who are extremely hungry to be great. Reardon is a great player who's going to get hers. We just hoped to slow her down."
Three Mattaliano kills, the third a pretty shot down the line, nudged the Redwings ahead 23-18 and at match point sophomore middle Rachael Fara rose up for a quick kill.
Pavich had 6 kills, Barnes 5 and Hannah Kaminsky 29 assists for Benet. Katelyn Seeman had 4 kills for JCA (19-3, 5-1), whose two previous losses came to Top 20 national teams Assumption (Ky.) and Mother McAuley.
Benet and JCA should become quite familiar with each other the next eight days. They are the top two seeds at this weekend's Mizuno Cup, then are both at Autumnfest next weekend.