Girls volleyball: Benet's Warren named DuPage County All-Area Captain

Good things came in threes for Aniya Warren this season.

In her third season on the varsity girls volleyball team at Benet Academy, Warren pulled off the trifecta of regular-season awards when she was named the MVP at the Wheaton Classic, the Scholastic Cup and Autumnfest, the three best tournaments in the suburbs.

Those performances turned out to be a catalyst for Warren and Benet as she and the Redwings flew all the way to the Class 4A state championship match for the second year in a row.

But this season was more special for Warren, albeit more of a challenge as well.

"Individually this year it was a little difficult because last year my Granddad was watching on TV," said Warren, a 5-foot-9 junior libero. "He said he believed in me and the team and that we would get it done. It didn't happen - we fell a little short. After the game, he talked to me and said how proud he was of me and that I played great. I told him next year we would be back to finish the job and he would be there to see. He said next year sounds great. Can't wait. Unfortunately the following month he passed away right before Christmas. So going into this season I had to focus. Get in the gym and get reps in. Build my mind to continue to push through adversity. Be a good teammate on and off the court. Although my granddad is not here with me physically I know he's watching over me. And we are headed back to Redbird Arena to take care of some unfinished business."

As life's challenges happen, Benet will go into the 2024 season still having that unfinished business after the Redwings fell to Mother McAuley in the title match again.

But that one match dud not define the season Warren had, and her performance over Benet's 39-3 campaign led to her selection as the Captain of the 2023 Daily Herald DuPage County All-Area Girls Volleyball Team.

"Aniya has started all three seasons at Benet," said Redwings coach Brad Baker. "Year after year she has worked hard to improve her skills, but most importantly she has been more of a vocal leader on and off the court which has been tremendously beneficial to our team.

"Aniya is a fabulous teammate. She is extremely competitive and that has rubbed off on the rest of the team."

Warren, who finished the season with 447 digs, said she became a smarter player this season.

"I think my court IQ has evolved," she said. "I worked a lot this summer on reading serves and the line of approach of the hitters. That's also something they emphasized when I trained at the USA National Training Development program."

Becoming more of a leader for a team that had several personnel changes from 2022 was important to Benet's success as well.

"As a team, we had to readjust and some people had to embark on the challenge of playing a new position," said Warren, the daughter of Tire and Tammy Warren.

"This can be difficult for some but they thrived in this new position. We had new players added to the roster and people accepting new roles. We had to learn to trust and believe in one another because not all of us had played with each other. There was a lot of change going on and while some teams can use that change as an excuse, we decided to use it as fuel to keep evolving."

Committed to Indiana, Warren says she's far from done evolving as a player.

"I think every aspect of my game can improve," she said. "I don't want to just be average. I want to be great. I always want more for myself. I don't want to plateau. Going into the Big Ten it's a fish-eat-fish world. You either have to be a shark in it or you will get eaten. That's just how life goes.

"My goal when I go to IU is just to make an immediate impact and help the program to keep growing as a whole. "

Along that road, Warren knows she'll have her family there to support her.

"My family plays a huge part in who I am today," she said. "Before I could drive they were the ones taking me to multiple practices in one day. Wake up early to get me to my tournament on time and stay up late to pick me up from practices. They push me every day to be better on and off the court.

"My family has made countless sacrifices for me to continue training at a high level. They show me a lot of love but they also give me criticism when needed. My family is always there for me no matter what and shows me so much love. It's a really special and great relationship to have. I'm very grateful for them."

Brian Hill/bhill@dailyherald.comBenet's Aniya Warren (8) during the IHSA Class 4A girls volleyball state title game between Benet Academy and Mother McAuley Saturday November 12, 2022 at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Benet Academy's libero Aniya Warren (8) hi-fives her teammates before the match against Barrington in the Class 4A semifinal game on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 at Redbird Arena in Normal.
  Aniya Warren celebrates a point with her Benet teammates during the Class 4A state championship match Saturday against Mother McAuley. John Starks/
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