Until it forges a new future, Benet still relives the past
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Benet pitcher Molly Moran has a dislocated knee is expected to be out 4-6 weeks.
Daniel White | Staff Photographer
It's been said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, and how fitting was it last week when Benet's softball team tweeted a photo of outdoor practice in 8 inches of snow.
Is there a team more itching to go than Benet? Doubtful.
There was no more stunning score in last year's softball playoffs than Benet's 1-0 regional loss to Neuqua Valley. Not so much the result, but that Benet was shut out.
Benet senior Maeve McGuire still isn't over it.
"I replay it all the time in my head," McGuire said. "I'm still kind of bitter about it."
Benet is scheduled to get back at it Saturday, its season opener at Geneva, but poor field conditions could delay the Redwings' debut until next week.
The Redwings bats are ready to go.
Benet brings back six of its top seven hitters — McGuire, Marissa Panko, Julianne Rurka, Stephanie Abello, Emily York and Ali Michalik — from a team that put up some downright ridiculous, video game-like numbers last year.
Benet scored 358 runs, just a tick under 10 a game. Three players hit over .500, led by Panko's area-leading .587 average. The Redwings slugged 46 homers, 16 from McGuire and 13 by then-freshman Abello. In one game Abello slugged 3 homers. In another Benet put up 13 runs in an inning.
Benet pretty much threw out the axiom that dominant pitching lords over softball.
"Those numbers," Michalik said, "I didn't know they were possible for a high school team."
What can the Redwings possibly do for an encore?
"Realistically, just as good as last year would be a plus," Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. "It's not normal to have a team where every single kid improves. Can they do it again? I don't know. We're going to score runs. I know that."
Thumpers like McGuire and Abello are what Benet is known for. McGuire this year will move from leadoff to third in the lineup. What could be most key, though, is how well Benet's bottom third and tablesetters like Panko and Michalik get on base.
"This is the most excited I've been for a high school season," Michalik said.
No season is complete without a little adversity, and Benet is already faced with some.
Junior pitcher Molly Moran, who won 31 games last year, dislocated her knee in practice and is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Schilf is hoping she is back by conference season.
But really, Benet must be thinking bigger than winning the East Suburban Catholic. Plus winning conference hardly is a predictor to postseason success.
Two years ago Benet took third in conference and went to state. Last year the Redwings won the ESCC — then watched fifth-place Marist make an improbable run to the Class 4A title. Two conference rivals that Benet went a combined 4-0 against — Marist and Providence — played in East Peoria.
It is still March. The ground is still frozen.
The girls aren't going to get too far ahead of themselves.
"We can't," Michalik said. "We're trying not to look forward to the end of the season, trying to take it one game at a time. We want to be peaking at the end."
It's called sportsmanship:
Before we jump into softball season, here's a couple last takeaways from basketball season:
The IHSA emphasizes a "winning attitude", but there couldn't have been two poorer examples of it at its state tournaments.
After its Class 4A semifinal, still smarting over defeat and a rash of technical fouls, Whitney Young's girls basketball team failed to show up in the media room for the postgame press conference. A week later, following a heated Class 2A boys final, the Seton coach declined to talk to the media — and the team left the gym without accepting its runner-up trophy. Allegations of racism on the Harrisburg side surfaced. From my distant view neither side's behavior appears blameless.
Coaches, like parents, are counted on to set a positive, mature example for their players and keep sports in perspective. Clearly Whitney Young and Seton failed.
On a brighter note, how about the youth served at Redbird Arena two weeks ago? Of the 10 starters in the Rolling Meadows-Marian Catholic 4A girls final, eight were underclassmen. That young talent isn't just limited to that game. Class 4A semifinalist Huntley brings back the young Andrews sisters. Locally, Montini, Neuqua Valley and Benet will all return four of their five starters and Wheaton Warrenville South four of its top eight players.
Can't wait to tip off next season!
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96
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