Girls volleyball: Benet beats Huntley to win Autumnfest
While capturing a state title is the ultimate goal, top-ranked Benet is enjoying its perfect ride so far this fall, one that may wind up historically special.
The Redwings won the Autumnfest girls volleyball championship Saturday afternoon with an impressive 25-11, 25-21 dismantling of Huntley at Glenbard East. With the win the Redwings avenged a loss to the Red Raiders in last year's Autumnfest title match and also improved to 34-0 on the year.
Benet setter Rachel Muisenga, named the tourney MVP, said the team was a little extra revved up for Huntley but also knows Tuesday's showdown with defending state champion Marist and then the state tournament can bring bigger and better things to a program accustomed to winning state trophies.
"We came out ready to play and obviously it was a little bit of revenge," the 6-foot junior said. "We knew they were a tough team and that we'd have to play really hard, but we really brought it in the first set which gave us the momentum for the second set."
The Redwings jumped ahead 9-1 in the opener after a dig by Hattie Monson led to a block by Ann Marie Remmes. The lead grew to 17-6 following another Monson dig and a kill by Kyla Kenney. With the sharp Redwings on top of their game, Huntley (28-5) never got close in the first set, which came to a close after Muisenga set up Sophie Gregus for the clincher.
"It's really awesome. It's a great feeling. You can't get much better than that, am I right?" the team's star setter asked rhetorically. "Benet's always been really good. We expect to play well throughout the whole season and this year has been really great for us. We're looking forward to these last few weeks."
Monson, the Notre Dame-bound libero who also was named to the all-tourney team, rattled off some nasty serves while serving her team to a quick 9-0 start to the second set. She finished the match with 15 service points including 3 aces, and her usual large number of diving digs and great passes. To the Red Raiders' credit, they rebounded and made the Redwings sweat a little before coming up short in the second set.
"So we've been a little up and down the whole season, but this whole tournament we just stayed strong the whole time and it showed this last game," said Monson, noting that Benet's deep, talented roster makes it tough on opponents. "We talk about that a lot. Our sophomore coach points out how each tournament there's another person who shines and who helps us get to the top. It's not just one person every game. It's every person every time."
Thirty-four straight wins to open the season and tourney titles at Wheaton Warrenville South and now Glenbard East -- where the Redwings got some revenge on Marist and Huntley -- have the team on a high as the postseason nears.
"It's awesome," Monson said of the team's perfect mark so far. "We've got to rest this weekend and focus on Tuesday, but we've got even bigger plans at the end."
Benet coach Brad Baker, whose team defeated Joliet Catholic in two sets in the semifinals, knows how hard it is to play a rugged schedule and not lose a match.
"We've never been 34-0. This is the first time," Baker said. "One year we were undefeated and we lost here. I don't remember the last time an Illinois team has done it (finished unbeaten). Tuesday will be a monumental one at their place. We'll definitely get their full attention."
Joliet Catholic defeated Mother McAuley for third place at Glenbard East, while Waubonsie Valley (23-10) outlasted St. Charles East in three sets in the fifth-place match. The Warriors' Elenzie France was named all-tourney along with Wheaton Warrenville South's Zayna Meyer.