Girls volleyball: Huntley outlasts Benet at AutumnFest

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 10/13/2018 8:45 PM
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For someone who loves tight battles, Benet senior setter Allison Van Eekeren liked a lot about the championship match of the AutumnFest tournament. She just didn't like the final outcome.

Van Eekeren and her Redwings teammates -- who reached the finals by defeating Glenbard East in three sets -- let a first-set lead slip away to Huntley before dropping the exciting finale 27-25, 25-23 to the Red Raiders, who notched their 30th win of the season.

"It's a huge win for us going into the postseason and playing some of the best volleyball we've played all season," Huntley coach Karen Naymola said. "Everyone just found a way to contribute. It was a great team win."

Benet (28-5) led 14-7 and 22-15 in the opener Saturday before Huntley rallied to claim the set with a 12-3 close. Setter and tourney MVP Taylor Jakubowski helped the Red Raiders close strong and then carried the momentum all the way to the school's first AutumnFest crown.

"A big, big, big credit to them. They played out of their mind," said Van Eekeren, who had 19 assists and 5 digs in the match and was named all-tourney. "In that first set when we were up 23-17, they just kicked it up a notch and we didn't pick it up enough."

Even so, the 6-foot, Creighton-bound senior enjoys the tight matches and the always-rugged schedule played by Benet.

"I love tournaments like this," Van Eekeren said. "I totally thrive in situations where it's a really tight game … 22-22, situations where the other team is fighting hard and we're fighting with them. I honestly love playing in games like this … there were a lot of big momentum plays for both sides."

In the finals, however, it just seemed as if Huntley made most of the big plays late in each set. After coming from behind to take the opener following a kill from middle blocker Loren Alberts and an ace by Arianna Torres broke a 25-25 tie, Huntley pulled out the second set despite trailing 21-20.

"I think where getting all that momentum from Game 1 really helped is just with the confidence going into the (second) game," Naymola said. "Offensively, I think we were playing a little timid in that first game. I mean that was the most we tipped this whole tournament. So after the timeout we said, 'You have to be aggressive. If we're going to lose we're going to go down being aggressive.'"

Redwings coach Brad Baker knew letting the Red Raiders off the hook in the first set could lead to trouble.

"You give them all the momentum and all the confidence in the world and you know they're going to come out steamrolling, because they just finished strong (in Game 1)," he said. "We just didn't do enough to slow them down."

Baker added that his team has been a little sluggish this past week but that it won't get any easier with a showdown against Marist around the corner on Tuesday.

"Up 22-15 if we pass a couple balls and put them away and move on, we're up 1-0 and we're at least in a third set here," he noted. "This has sort of been our brand this week. We've been just sort of trying to scrape wins out.

"I don't know if that's tired legs … we've played a lot of tough matches over the last seven days … you can count the number of teams ranked nationally … but we've got no break. If we keep feeling sorry for ourselves we're going to feel sorry again on Tuesday."

Julia Johnson led Huntley with 12 kills, and Sarah Zayas totaled 14 digs. Jakubowski had 28 assists and 13 digs.

All-tourney libero Hattie Monson had 11 digs in the match and sophomore Kyle Kenney led the Redwings offense with 7 kills.

Glenbard East, paced by all-tourney performers Allison Hamaker and Sarah Elliott had a strong weekend but settled for fourth place after losing to Benet in three sets in the semis and then falling to Mother McAuley 25-17, 25-15 in the third-place match in the Gold Division.

Waubonsie Valley notched its 20th win of the season and placed fifth after outlasting Loyola 22-25, 25-11, 25-23.

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