Benet's girls are going to need a spare closet for all their tournament champion T-shirts.
Nine straight tournament titles. A 45-match tournament win streak. One impressive run.
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The Redwings three-peated at Glenbard East's Autumnfest on Saturday in Lombard, beating Mother McAuley 26-24, 25-16 in the championship match.
Tournament MVP Sheila Doyle had 10 digs, Brittany Pavich 8 kills, Rachael Fara and Nicki Barnes 5 and Abby Willett 4 -- including match point -- for Benet (31-2), who hasn't lost a tournament match since the 2010 Mizuno Cup final against Joliet Catholic. Senior setter Hannah Kaminsky, who has never lost a tournament match in high school, dished out 27 assists.
"It's unbelievable -- we're so lucky," Doyle said. "Some teams don't even get to be at this point. We've worked really hard and it's paid off."
Like it did in all three of its matches Saturday, Benet got stronger as the match progressed.
The Redwings trailed throughout a close first set against McAuley, taking its first lead since 1-0 at 22-21 on a Cara Mattaliano block. The two teams played to three more ties, until Mattaliano's kill off a block got Benet to set point up 25-24. A McAuley hitting error ended it.
Earlier in the day, Benet dropped its first set in tournament matches this year, against Joliet Catholic in the semis. The Redwings roared back for a 21-25, 25-5, 25-19 win, after beating Crystal Lake South 25-20, 25-12 in the quarterfinals.
"We knew we were going to play three matches today and be here for how many hours," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "We wanted to play our best ball at the end."
Both teams intentionally float-served short throughout the championship match to take away their opponents' middle and make it a pin-player game, but that didn't stop Pavich from stepping up late. Leading 14-13 in the second, Pavich's block gave Benet back serve. After a Barnes smash, Pavich delivered a kill into the back corner then punctuated a big 5-0 run with a thunderous kill and 19-13 lead.
"I thought our passing was spot-on," Pavich said. "That helped Hannah get the sets to me."
Barnes earlier had a pair of kills to get Benet out of a 9-4 hole in the first set.
"We did a great job running our offense fast," Barnes said. "Although we did rely on our outsides a lot we kept it at a fast pace. That's a pace a lot of teams can't keep up with. I'm just looking for seams. I know I'm not tall enough to just go up there and pound it."
McAuley (26-3), which also lost to Benet in the 2010 Autumnfest final, never got closer. The young Mighty Macs start five sophomores, drawing from a Michio Chicago 15 National team that won the USAV 15 Open championship last summer.
"We didn't attack as well as we need to," McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. "Game 2, we just never got in sync. We lost the ebb and flow we had in Game 1."
Glenbard West, the last area unbeaten team, suffered its first loss of the season Saturday, dropping a 25-11, 25-17 quarterfinal match to Joliet Catholic. The Hilltoppers (32-2), playing in the Gold bracket for the first time, did bounce back to beat Crystal Lake South 25-18, 25-18 before losing to Naperville Central 25-22, 25-21 in the fifth-place match.
It was a good gauge for Glenbard West as it gears up for the playoffs.
"When this group is truly tested and their backs are against the wall, they always come back," Glenbard West coach Pete Mastandrea said. "I thought beating Crystal Lake South was a big one for us. Against Joliet Catholic, the speed of the game hurt us a little bit. But we need to be in those kind of matches."
Naperville Central (26-7) suffered a heartbreaking loss to West Aurora in its first match Saturday, a 23-18 lead in the third set slipping away in a 19-25, 25-23, 25-23 decision. The Redhawks, though, rebounded well, beating Prairie Ridge 25-19, 20-25, 25-16 and then Glenbard West.
"I've learned the longer I've coached that things happen for a reason," Redhawks coach Brie Isaacson said. "Good or bad things can come from it. Beating Prairie Ridge and Glenbard West, even though we weren't playing for what we wanted to play for, showed me something about my team."
The day didn't end as well as it began for West Aurora (28-5). After its big win over Naperville Central, the Blackhawks fell to McAuley 25-19, 25-17 then dropped a 16-25, 25-19, 25-23 nail-biter to Joliet Catholic in the third-place match.
"It's a little disappointing. We were kind of flat the last two games," West Aurora's Lauren Carlini said. "We lost to Naperville Central a couple weeks ago, so we wanted redemption. They played amazing, but luckily we pulled it out at the end."