Since 2008, Benet has won two state titles, finished second once, won five regional titles and four sectional championships. What the Redwings had not done since 2008 is win an East Suburban Catholic Conference title.
And although the ESCC is split in two divisions this year, Benet was able to claim supremacy in the South Division with a 20-25, 25-21, 25-19 victory over Marist Thursday in Lisle.
“This was one of our goals that we’re really proud of,” Benet’s Dana Griffin said. “Obviously, we have more stuff that we need to work and that we’re shooting for. We wanted to make this a turning point for the rest of our season so we can come out strong for the rest of the games we have.”
Benet (34-1, 10-0) left itself a lot of work to do after dropping the first game and trailing 20-17 in the second. But the Redwings closed the second set on an 8-1 run, then opened a 10-5 lead in Game 3.
“We came out a little too light in the first game,” Griffin said. “We had to refocus in the second game and pull it out. They had a lot of good blocks and good digs and we had to figure out how to hit around it. We had to get all our passes up and pull up the momentum and push through the end of the match.”
Kills by Tiffany Clark and Veronica Snelling sandwiched around an ace by Natalie Canulli got Benet even at 20-20 in Game 2, and a tandem block by Rachael Fara and Snelling gave Benet a 21-20 lead and forced a Marist timeout.
“I was really happy with the way we came out in Game 1,” Marist coach Julie Popp Hopkins said. “We keep saying we’re making these moves and making these strides in the right direction, and that’s what happened in Game 1. But you have to do it for a whole match. You can’t just do it for 25 points.
“Benet’s a phenomenal team. They’re going to make you work for your points as any good team is. That’s what they did in the second game, and you have to go out there and execute. It’s good volleyball. At the end of the day, it’s good volleyball.”
Fara closed out Game 2 for Benet with a pair of kills, then Griffin took over in Game 3. A kill by the 5-foot-11 senior gave Benet a 14-9 lead, then after Marist (27-8, 8-2) closed to within 21-17, she rattled off four kills including the match-winner on a nifty push shot to the far corner.
“I just felt it,” Griffin said. “Once I had the momentum going, I wanted to keep going and keep going and push as hard as I could.”
Griffin led Benet with 12 kills and eight digs. Snelling added eight kills, Tiffany Clark had seven kills and 11 digs, Sara Nielsen had 32 assists and 11 digs, and Fara finished with four kills and eight blocks.
Lizzle Zaleski had 25 assists, four aces, 15 digs and six kills to lead Marist. Emily Graff added 10 kills, Colleen Reilly had eight kills and three blocks, Cameron Enright had seven kills and Allyssa Rizzo had 21 digs.
“We had five services errors in Game 1,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Four of them were first balls. Talk about sucking the life out of your team. That’s hard to do hard to come back from. Marist is good. They had a couple of good runs in there.”
“But once again, we were able to finish that second game and carry the momentum into the third game and play well.”