Benet avenges 2008 defeat to St. Charles East
NORMAL -- Benet's players mobbed each other at halfcourt, a scene fitting of a state championship, until Redwings coach Brad Baker twice told them to calm down.
This wasn't the championship match, sure.
But it was personal.
The Redwings beat St. Charles East for the fourth time this season -- needing three sets for the first time -- and gained a familial measure of revenge with their 25-20, 22-25, 25-19 win in Friday's Class 4A semifinal at Redbird Arena.
Four Benet players had older sisters on the 2008 Benet team upset by St. Charles East in the championship match, including Jenna Jendryk. Jenna's sister Jessica, now a junior at Illinois, even put together a "good luck" power point presentation signed by many of the 2008 Redwings.
"There was a lot of pressure, because they beat us three years ago," Jenna Jendryk said. "We really wanted to get revenge on them for three years ago."
Benet (38-3) will play Cary-Grove, the 2009 state champion and 2010 runner-up, in today's 8:55 p.m. championship match. Benet seeks its first state championship, to go a step further than the 2008 team.
"I think we've got a text, or an email, or a Facebook note from just about every single alumni," Baker said. "Those (2008) kids started this, but they expect this group to finish the job."
St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull, even in defeat, was all smiles afterward. And why not? Her Saints (34-7) only got as close as 25-20 in three previous matches with Benet. Perhaps playing with nothing-to-lose looseness, the Saints pushed Benet to the limit despite 21 hitting errors and 11 service errors.
"Obviously, you want to win -- that's the reason why you play the game," Kull said, "but I couldn't be prouder of these young ladies. That Benet team has so many weapons. Our kids did the best that they could do with what we have."
Benet finally shook its opponent midway through the third set.
Leading 10-8, the Redwings got breathing room with a 6-1 run. Meghan Haggerty put down a kill, and Maddie Haggerty spiked one of her own off the block. Sophomore middle Brittany Pavich, inserted midway through the match, went high for a kill for a 13-9 lead. Two ensuing long rallies ended with Maddie Haggerty and Jendryk kills, and Jendryk put another one down for a16-9 lead.
Benet's seemingly endless supply of big hitters appeared to wear down the Saints.
"You're here, and everyone scouts," Baker said, "so it becomes more difficult to score points. But we just want to continue to play our brand of volleyball and do what we do. Over time we hope that the other team just can't stay with it."
A kill by Nicole Lambert got St. Charles East within 22-18, but Meghan Haggerty put a kill down on a slide play and served up an ace. After a Lambert kill Maddie Haggerty delivered a cross-court kill to set off the wild celebration.
"We got hit, they beat us in that second set," Baker said, "and you ask, 'How are you going to come back? Are we going to shrivel up as a team and just take it and not have confidence or are we going to come out like we did and come out swinging? In the third game I thought that was the difference. We remained confident in ourselves no matter the situation."
Meghan Niski had 4 kills with 15 digs, with middles Lambert and Kathleen Dailey playing big with 8 and 7 kills, respectively, for St. Charles East. Maddie Haggerty had 11 kills, Meghan Haggerty 8 and Jendryk 7 for Benet, which won its 19th straight match.
St. Charles East won't be playing for a state title tonight, but that won't make the ride any less joyful for Kull and her eight seniors.
"The bottom line is, you gotta enjoy it," Kull said. "Once we get here that's always been our motto. What happens here is a bonus. These girls worked extremely hard to get here. I have eight seniors. I want them to enjoy this experience."