Girls volleyball: Benet 11-0 after beating St. Charles East

Benet Academy girls volleyball coach Brad Baker refers to his team as "a work in progress."

That could be bad news for the rest of the teams in the state.

Led by a pair of Division I recruits - Veronica Snelling (Missouri State) and Sara Nielsen (Minnesota) - the Redwings improved their record to 11-0 with an impressive 25-18, 25-19 nonconference victory over St. Charles East (9-3) Thursday night in Lisle.

Trailing 15-12 in the opening set, the Redwings scored 4 straight points to grab a 16-15 lead. Snelling, Gretchen Rudel and Madison McGivney each had kills during the mini-run.

After the Saints drew even at 17-all on a kill from senior Morgan Kull (3 kills, 7 digs, 11 assists), the Redwings closed out the set with an 8-1 surge that included 3 more kills from Snelling and a block from 6-foot-2 junior Lilly Johnson.

"A good long game - it's going to be 45 minutes," said Baker. "We just have to make sure we are willing to stay mentally in it for 45 minutes. The first team to 15 (points) is great but you've got to get to 25 to win."

Snelling, a 5-11 senior outside hitter, recorded 7 of her match-high 12 kills in the second set as the Redwings jumped out to a 3-0 lead and never looked back.

"Sara (Nielsen) was giving me great sets," said Snelling. "We've been working a lot on tempo in practice and I think it really connected tonight."

Baker, who has guided the Redwings to Class 4A state titles in 3 of the last 5 years, knows he has a special player on his hands in the left-handed hitting Snelling.

"She's one of a kind," said Baker. "She has been doing it for a long time. She's a complete difference maker for six rotations."

Johnson chipped in with 6 kills while Rudel and Sydney Relihan each added 4 kills for the Redwings.

"She has the ability to carry us if we need her to," Baker said of Johnson.

Nielsen notched 27 assists while Lauren Barnes sparked the defense with 13 digs.

"This is a brand new lineup," said Baker. "This is the first time Barnes has played middle back and we had two new kids playing left back. This was a new dynamic for us in the back row.

"We're weeks behind where we normally are - which could be a good thing. We're 11-0 and we're weeks behind so our ceiling is pretty high."

Kyla Augustine and Emily Schildmeyer contributed 6 and 4 kills, respectively, for the Saints, who saw their 9-match winning streak end.

"One of the things we focus on early in the season is not so much what the other team is doing but what things we need to get better at," said Saints' coach Jennie Kull, whose team competes at the Mother McAuley Invite this weekend before facing nationally ranked Geneva Tuesday. "It was evident that our blocking (4 total) wasn't what we need it to be.

"We were on this winning streak and this brings us back to reality. I'm OK with it."

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