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updated: 10/23/2012 11:06 PM

Benet offense sets the pace against Downers Grove South

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Benet's offense is so varied, and its run so quickly, that many opponents find it difficult to match in the long run.

Try as it might, Downers Grove South couldn't keep up.

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No. 1 Benet pulled away midway through both sets for a 25-16, 25-10 win in Tuesday's first semifinal of the Class 4A Naperville Central regional.

"We kept our energy level up throughout the entire match," said Benet senior outside Cara Mattaliano, who had a match-high 13 kills, "and we never let down."

When Benet (34-2) wasn't running Mattaliano from the pins or the back row, it was hammering away at its opponent with slide plays run by middles Brittany Pavich, Abby Willett and Rachael Fara. Fara, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, had 4 kills and 4 blocks, Willett 4 kills and 2 blocks and Pavich 3 kills and a block.

"(Downers Grove South) runs a 6-2 so they're switching people in the front row a lot. They were having some difficulty getting their blockers all the way out which allowed us to score some easy points," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "We want to get everybody involved. If we can run 50 slides, we'd run it. We want to be as diverse as we possibly can."

Downers Grove South (22-15) hung with the Redwings in the early stages of both sets. A kill by Olivia Zarek had the Mustangs within 11-7 in the first. From there, though, Benet rolled off a 6-0 run. Mattaliano had 3 kills during that stretch, Fara a block and setter Hannah Kaminsky, the maestro of it all, a perfectly timed dump shot.

"Their offense is just way faster than ours," Downers Grove South coach Trisha Kurth said. "They run a fast offense and they go pin to pin, so when you're swing blocking it's tough to get there."

Mattaliano and her teammates didn't mind being challenged.

"They're a good team," she said of Downers Grove South, "but our passing was spot on. We just kept swinging. We never got down."

A kill by Downers Grove South's Kristy LaRue, who had a team-high 5, pulled the Mustangs within 9-7 in the second set. Mattaliano answered with a kill, triggering a decisive 8-1 run that she finished with a couple more kills. Fara's fourth kill finished things off.

"It's what we want to do. We want to continue to play better as the match goes along," Baker said. "If we're here for an hour or we're here for an hour and a half, we want to be playing our best ball at the end of the match. We did that. We closed out strong."

Kaminsky had 23 assists and 7 digs and Sheila Doyle 6 digs for Benet, which advances to a showdown with regional host Naperville Central Thursday. Benet beat the Redhawks 25-23, 25-23 earlier this month at Mizuno Cup, perhaps its toughest test in a current 18-match win streak.

"Nobody every said it would be easy," Baker said. "We can't control it. We can only play who is in front of us."

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