Rachael Fara fuels Benet in Mizuno Cup championship

SHARE Rachael Fara fuels Benet in Mizuno Cup championship

When things got tight in the third game of the championship match of the St. Charles East Mizuno Cup on Saturday at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora, Benet turned to its MVP.

“When a hitter gets hot, a setter will just keep setting them,” Benet’s 6-3 middle hitter Rachael Fara said. “I guess that’s how it worked out today. That just shows how good the rest of the team is and how disciplined they are in their defense and getting the ball to the setter.”

After watching Plainfield North run off four unanswered points to cut into its 20-12 lead in Game 3, Benet turned to Fara. The Northwestern-bound senior responded with four straight kills as the Redwings held on to defeat the Tigers 25-19, 14-25, 25-18 and claim their third tournament title of the season.

The victory was vindication for the Benet seniors and juniors, who were on a Great Lakes court a year ago when the Redwings’ streak of 11 consecutive regular-season tournament championships ended with a pool-play loss to Naperville Central.

“I know for the seniors and for the other juniors who were on the team last year, that was a really hard tournament,” Benet sophomore setter Sara Nielsen said. “They all had that memory in their minds coming into this tournament. They wanted to make up for it this year.”

Benet (27-0) seemed comfortably on its way to the title in Game 1, building a 17-11 lead on a kill by Dana Griffin and winning the set on a slam by Fara. But Plainfield North (21-8) opened Game 2 on a 7-1 run, and after Benet got within 13-11, the Tigers pulled away for the easy win.

“They played really well in Game 2,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Plainfield North has some very talented kids, and in Game 2 I thought they played outstanding. If they play like that, they’re going to win a lot of ballgames. We played OK, they just played excellent.”

But in Game 3, a trio of dumps by Nielsen and back-to-back kills by Griffin gave the Redwings a 10-4 lead. Griffin later scored on a get-me-over dig to extend the advantage to 20-12 before the Tigers countered with four straight points.

Enter Fara, who was named the tournament’s MVP.

“We like it always to be Rachael time,” Baker said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work, and we want to make sure everybody’s getting repetitions at this time of the year so they’re ready to go when we need them.”

Griffin led Benet in the title match with 11 kills and two aces, Fara added nine kills, sophomore Veronica Snelling had six kills and Nielsen finished with 28 assists and five kills.

Allie Lindroth led Plainfield North with 13 kills, Kaitlyn Fisher added 12 kills and two blocks and Lauren Murphy had 24 assists. The Tigers, who finished 10th at the Wheaton Classic, lost for just the second time in their last 11 matches.

“We’ve definitely been working on a lot of stuff lately,” Lindroth said. “We know our key things to work on and we’ve actually been excelling in those areas lately. It all starts with how you prepare, and we’ve been preparing up to this point really well.

“I think that we’ve jelled really well as a team. If we keep working on our serve-receive, I think we’ll be fine down the road from here.”

St. Charles East (22-6), which lost to Benet in the semifinals 23-25, 25-11, 25-15, defeated Normal West 25-12, 27-25 for third place. Hinsdale Central (20-6), defeated Neuqua Valley 25-23, 25-23 for fifth place, and Geneva (21-6) stopped Leon (Fla.) 25-27, 25-19, 25-13 for seventh.

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