The 2023-24 Herald Cup: No. 2 Benet Academy

Editor’s note: Now that the high school sports year is over, we devised a points system based on team state finishes to measure which of the 85 high schools from the Daily Herald circulation area had the best athletic year in 2023-24. We’ll announce the top five small schools this week, one per day, starting with No. 5 on Monday through No. 1 on Friday. The top five large schools will be revealed next week.

Benet Academy earned points in five sports over the 2023-24 school year. The Redwings flew into fall, with deep state runs in girls tennis, girls volleyball, boys cross country and girls golf, then wrapped up the year in girls lacrosse.

The Redwings finished second in the 2023-24 Herald Cup standings for small schools with 69 points that were calculated by weighing team finishes throughout the fall, winter and spring.

How they did it

Benet earned second-place trophies in both Class 1A girls tennis, just one point behind winner Chicago University High, and in Class 4A girls volleyball, where the Redwings (39-3) extended Mother McAuley to three sets in coach Brad Baker’s eighth trip to the title match.

Benet liked the outdoors. It added a sixth-place finish in Class 2A girls golf and placed seventh in 2A boys cross country, one point out of sixth.

Leaping to the spring, Benet’s girls lacrosse team (23-3) reached another state championship, losing 14-5 to Loyola Academy.

Who made it happen

Junior libero Aniya Warren is a member of USA Volleyball’s Under-19 National Team. Last fall she earned her second straight Illinois Volleyball Coaches Association all-state honor. Sophomore middle blocker Lynney Tarnow, 6-foot-5, earned her first.

Juniors Shane Delaney and Clare Lopatka won six straight doubles matches to earn the Class 1A title. Juniors Natalie Grover and Katie Jendra placed fifth in doubles and another junior, Meredith Converse, added 7 singles points. Freshman singles Lily Lopatka also scored.

Junior Finn Richards’ fifth-place time of 14 minutes, 44.75 seconds at 2023 state cross country is the top returning Class 2A time among last year’s runners at Detweiller Park.

East Suburban Catholic Conference medalist and incoming University of Michigan freshman Jenna Shilts was runner-up in 2A girls golf. Junior Audrey Wake played in her third state tournament.

Benet landed four first-team Illinois Girls Lacrosse Coaches Association all-state selections: seniors Shannon Earley, Madeline Jensen, and Dagny Tombaugh, junior Gianna Kurelko.

Key stats

Committed to Indiana University, Warren registered 447 digs for the Redwings volleyball team last season. Sophomore setter Ellie Stiernagle supplied 887 assists.

In ESCC tournament, sectional and state play Delaney and Lopatka won every match in two sets and allowed opponents a fourth point in a set only twice, at the Class 1A tournament.

At the ESCC boys cross country championships Richards, Aiden Hulett, Jacob Molloy and Charlie Phelan took the top four slots with fifth scorer Daniel Shannon 10th to give the Redwings 19 points. Second-place Notre Dame scored 77.

The ESCC girls lacrosse player of the year and with goalie Jensen a three-time all-conference pick, Earley’s 104 goals ranked fourth in Illinois according to MaxPreps.

Key fact

Warren was named most valuable player at the Wheaton Classic, the Scholastic Cup and Autumnfest, the top three girls volleyball tournaments in the suburbs.

They said it

“I think every aspect of my game can improve. 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.” — Warren, in the late John Radtke’s DuPage County All-Area girls volleyball captain story.

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