NORMAL -- After falling behind early in both games, Benet answered with identical 8-1 scoring runs at the midpoint of each to post a 25-20, 25-20 win over Edwardsville to capture the Class 4A Normal West supersectional on Saturday afternoon.
Benet (38-2) will continue its quest for a second straight Class 4A title on Friday night back in Normal at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena. The Redwings hope to become the first team in history to win back-to-back titles since the four-class system was adopted in 2007.
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"It's a great accomplishment anytime you can get back there, but we're not trying to repeat," said Redwings coach Brad Baker. "This team's trying to win their own championship. This is a new year and a new season and they want to make their own history."
Paced by standout middle hitter Sarah Parker, Edwardsville doubled up the Redwings at 8-4 in the opening game and expanded the advantage to 15-10 when Benet launched its first spree to take an 18-16 lead, its first of the game.
After a timeout the Tigers battled back to knot the game at 18 before kills by Benet's Brittany Pavich and Cara Mattaliano shifted momentum back to the Redwings, who won going away.
Mattaliano led Benet with 10 kills in the match.
"We did a good job of keeping our composure," the senior outside hitter said. "We won for each other. We knew that every point was for everybody else on the team, so we didn't want to let each other down. We just kept calm and played our game."
Edwardsville raced to a 6-1 advantage in the second game before the Redwings clawed their way back. The 8-1 run in that game culminated with a Nicki Barnes kill that put Benet in control at 22-18.
"We got off to an early lead in both games and then made some unforced errors there in the middle of the match and kind of lost some of our momentum in both games," said Edwardsville coach Jami Parker. "It's one of those things, when you're playing a great team you've got to play every point and you can't give up those big runs in the middle. That kind of caught up with us."
The Benet defense, led by Sheila Doyle's 17 digs, was pivotal in helping the Redwings battle back.
"We started the year with the motto that we were going to be the best defensive team in the state," Baker said. "If we're going to try to win a championship this year we're going to have to play great defense and it came through tonight."