High school sports dynasties: Girls No. 6, Benet volleyball
Editor's note: The Daily Herald is counting down the Top 10 boys and girls high school sports dynasties over the past 20 years, two at a time. We continue today at No. 6 with Benet girls volleyball and Hinsdale Central boys golf.
Nobody doubts Benet girls volleyball these days. Not since 2011 anyway.
The Redwings own four state championships now, but that first one remains special to coach Brad Baker.
"The first one is always sort of the one that until you do it you don't know that you can. You always have that doubt in your mind. I think everyone doubts you," he said.
Benet's record during Baker's 13 seasons as coach, and even beyond, is one of sustained excellence.
The Redwings have won 15 regionals in the past 20 years, including 13 straight. They have won nine sectionals. They have placed second at state twice and third once.
They have finished ranked in the top 100 in the nation 11 times in 13 years, including last year's No. 2 finish.
The Redwings have been blessed with a lot of talented athletes who have been willing to put in the work necessary to succeed at the highest levels of IHSA volleyball. Benet has sent 58 players on to play college volleyball.
"It's not easy, but the kids just have been willing to continually work harder every year," Baker said.
It's gotten so expectations have swung 180 degrees.
"You can't win it all every year," said Baker, who is 476-53 at Benet and twice has been named the national coach of the year. "People say you can. You have to have the right group of kids, but the kids still work hard every year to give us a chance and put us in position to be there."
The Redwings were there in 2011, 2012, 2014 and again in 2019, when they won the Class 4A championship against Wheaton Warrenville South. The Redwings added a trophy to a 41-1 season.
There is no end in sight.
"You hope it never ends. You hope you can still continue to motivate kids and kids want to work hard and want to be great. ... I think we'll have a chance to be good for a while," Baker said.