Girls volleyball: Benet rolls by WW South to claim state title
NORMAL -- It took a lot out of the Benet girls volleyball team on Friday night to take out its arch-nemesis in the IHSA state semifinals.
But the Redwings, who swept Marist, the No. 7-ranked team in the nation, were determined not to run out of gas on Saturday in the state championship at Redbird Arena. On the contrary, they were ready to go from zero to 60 right out of the gate.
"You don't want to be the best (team) on Friday night, you want to be the best on Saturday night," said Benet coach Brad Baker, whose team is ranked No. 11 in the country. "You get worried because it takes a lot out of you (to beat a team the caliber of Marist) and 24 hours later, you've got to rev it up again."
But Benet revved loudly and with authority, blowing by Wheaton Warrenville South in straight sets, 25-12, 25-16 to win its fourth state championship (2011, 2012, 2014) in the last nine years.
The Redwings, who ran out to a 12-2 lead in the first set to set the tone for the entire match, close out one of their best seasons in school history with a 41-1 record.
Wheaton Warrenville South finishes at 33-9.
"We knew (Wheaton Warrenville South) was going to come out tough and want it just as much as we did," said Benet setter Rachel Muisenga, who had 21 assists. "We took it one point at a time and got out to a great start.
"We definitely had a lot of confidence coming in here after a big win like that (over Marist) on Friday night. We were really prepared for this day and just finishing the job and getting to where we wanted to be. We did it."
Muisenga really spread the wealth as Sophie Gregus finished with a team-high 8 kills and three other players, Kyla Kenney, Ann Marie Remmes and Colleen McGuire each had 4 kills. Muisenga herself also had 4 kills.
Kenney also had a team-high 14 digs.
Wheaton Warrenville South, which got a team-high 3 kills apiece out of both Lizzie Chiesa and Zayna Meyer and a match-high 15 digs out of Darby Harris, regrouped in the second set and forced a tie at 9-9. The Tigers remained confident that they could stretch it out to a third set since they had forced a three-set match with Benet earlier in the season.
"It wasn't the start we wanted and we tried not to be intimidated but it (Benet's fast start) got in our head a little," said Wheaton Warrenville South setter Sarah Burau, who finished with 10 assists. "In the second set, we pulled it together and tied it but then we let it go a little. We tired out a little bit.
"But it was still a fairy tale season. And even though it wasn't the fairy tale ending we wanted, I am unbelievably proud of this whole team. It's still a great way to end my senior year."
Burau will be continuing her career at Lehigh University next year. Meanwhile, four of Benet's top seven players will be playing Division I volleyball next year.
McGuire will be playing beach volleyball at UC-Davis, libero Hattie Monson, who had 11 digs in the title game, will be playing at Notre Dame, Gregus will be playing at Illinois and Muisenga will be playing at Penn State.
That level of talent alone, not to mention the ease in which Benet blew through the season, could elevate this particular team in program lore.
"This team is going to go down as one of the best ever," said Baker, whose team suffered its one and only loss to Marist during the regular season. "To win every (regular season) tournament, to win a conference championship, to run the table and not lose a set in the entire state tournament. I mean, only one team, since the start of sectionals has scored 20 points on us, and that was Marist last night. I mean, we've dominated. We didn't just win in the playoffs, we turned it up to a whole other level and I wasn't sure we had another level. That's hard to do when you play as well as we have all year."