Just prior to the start of Saturday's title girls volleyball match of the Wheaton Classic, it looked for a moment like defending champion Benet might have to play without its starting setter.
But no need to worry, as Stephanie Sinnappan not only returned after a brief trip to the locker room with trainers but led the way as the Redwings swept Plainfield North 25-9, 25-18 to capture the Wheaton Classic championship at Wheaton Warrenville South a third straight year and also claim top honors in an amazing 11th straight regular-season tournament.
Sinnappan, a 6-foot senior who has been setting and playing some outside for Benet, suffered an upset stomach just prior to the start of the match and minutes later returned sporting a new uniform with a new number.
She played as well as ever, however, and her strong serving helped Benet rattle the Tigers, who struggled mightily with their passing and dropped to 18-2 on the year. Sinnappan rattled off 10 straight service points in Game 1 as the Redwings (16-1) turned a 13-7 lead into a commanding 23-7 advantage before the Redwings finally missed a serve deep.
"We knew they had really aggressive hitters so we wanted to serve aggressively to get them out of their system so they couldn't be aggressive. I think we executed that pretty well today," said Sinnappan, who had 6 aces and 20 assists in the finals.
Benet hit Plainfield North with more than just solid serving, as Caroline Wolf led a strong defensive effort with 9 digs and Whitney Battoe led a balanced attack with 8 kills. But it was the nasty serving that caused the biggest problems for the Tigers, who had a difficult time setting up a consistent offense for star setter Kate Federico.
"Our passing completely shut down and then our communication was (gone) soon after," said Plainfield North coach Tracey Marshall. "They played a steady match but we just didn't play at our caliber."
The Redwings jumped ahead 14-5 in Game 2 following a kill from Ashley Hitchcock and a big serve from Natalie Canulli, but the Tigers did put up more of a fight in the second game, closing to within 20-15, before a trio of hitting errors set the stage for Hitchcock to close out the match with her sixth kill.
Benet coach Brad Baker, whose team hopes to get standout middle Brittany Pavich back from injury soon, was happy to see histeam play so well while sweeping St. Charles North in the semis on Saturday and then turning in two more solid games in the finals. "We saw growth today which is great," Baker said. "It's encouraging to be playing like this right now, but we need to continue to improve."
Redwing sophomore Tiffany Clark was glad to be apart of yet another tourney titlist. "We wanted to win of course and keep the legacy going, but we're also trying to make our own legacy," she said.