Girls volleyball: Benet nearly perfect at supersectional
Nearly perfect is how most would describe the play of Benet's girls volleyball team in 2019, and their 39-1 record does reflect it.
There is that one blemish, however -- a late-season loss to defending Class 4A champion Marist -- but now the Redwings are headed back downstate and get to face their rivals again in Friday's state semifinals at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Benet earned that crack at the RedHawks and a return downstate by playing a near-flawless match Friday night, ending Minooka's season with a 25-17, 25-17 win in the supersectional.
The first set was tied 6-6 before the Redwings used a 13-3 charge to take control. The second set was tighter a little longer -- deadlocked at 12-12 after a Sophie Gregus kill for the top seed erased the Indians' final lead of the night. From there the Redwings used a block and then a kill by Anne Marie Remmes to jump-start a 6-1 spree that had the favorites tasting another trip to state.
"For sure it feels amazing," senior setter Rachel Muisenga said after her 22 assists and a trio of kills helped dispatch a solid Minooka squad that closes the year 31-8. "We came out really strong in that first set and then we stayed steady in the second set and got it done. We played really clean in that first set. We were ready and we were serving hard."
The Penn State-bound Muisenga was on top of her game, turning good and even the rare not-so-good teammate passes into great sets and getting a number of her talented teammates involved in the offense. She was also one of three Redwings to record 3 blocks in the match as the defense shined, both at the net and in the back row.
Redwings coach Brad Baker, whose daughter also earned a trip downstate Friday as a member of the Fremd team that defeated Libertyville, knows his players are planning to settle for nothing less than a state title, even if a powerful Marist team awaits in the semis. He knows his defense can make the difference.
"When everybody's playing that hard and playing for one another, nobody wants to let anything drop," he said of a defensive effort that has frustrated opponents all fall. "So it's a hundred percent all the time. When you get a group of kids that care about one another and treat each other the way they do, you get kids that play this hard all the time."
The Redwings did defeat Marist in the championship match of the Autumnfest tourney at Glenbard East last month before falling in the season finale. So Friday's rubber match should be a dandy, with the winner moving on to the state title match.
"We're excited. That's what you want when you go downstate," Baker said. "You want big programs in big matches. We kind of say when there's a big match at state the last few years, we've been in it. We've been a big part of that and it's fun.
"It's another big opportunity for us come Friday night. We're excited for Friday. The opportunity just to go down there is a great one, but I know these kids are hungry."
Gregus led a balanced Benet attack Friday with 7 kills and 3 aces, while Kyla Kenney had 5 kills and 6 digs. Minooka's 6-foot-3 sophomore Heidi Bonde led her team with 12 kills.