There’s an old adage about beating a good team three times in a season. But there’s no clichés about beating a good team four times.
Benet had to fight off two set points Thursday after squandering a 10-3 lead in Game 1, and then took advantage of some early St. Charles East miscues in Game 2 to defeat the Saints, 29-27, 25-16, and win the Bartlett Class 4A Sectional.
Benet (38-1) advances to the Hinsdale Central Supersectional where it will face No. 1 Mother McAuley (36-3) Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Redwings’ sixth sectional title in seven years came at the hands of a team they had beaten three times previously this season. But the Saints used a 15-5 run in Game 1 to serve notice that they weren’t going to lose a fourth time without a fight.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Benet middle hitter Rachael Fara said. “A lot of teams cannot beat a team as fantastic as St. Charles East four times. I have some friends on that team and they’re incredible players, incredible people, and there’s a lot of things they deserve. Sometimes it just doesn’t always work out.”
A tip kill by Natalie Canulli gave Benet a 10-3 lead in Game 1 and forced a St. Charles East timeout. The Redwings still led 12-6 when a service error and a double-hit gave the Saints new life. By the time Benet coach Brad Baker had burned his second timeout, the Redwings trailed 18-15.
St. Charles East eventually earned set points at 24-23 and 25-24, but Benet’s Dana Griffin erased the first set point with a kill and a Saints’ net violation wiped out the second. Benet earned set points at 26-25 and 27-26 before finally winning on an East error.
“Anybody who gets to the Sweet 16 is playing well or they don’t get here,” Baker said. “You have to expect a good match no matter who you’re playing, and you know they’re going to play well. They’re a well-coached team and they’ve gotten to this point for a reason.
“They have some talented kids. We expected to play three two-point games to be able to win tonight. We got one of them when we were able to pull that first game out, and we were ready to play two more.”
Like it had in Game 1, Benet built an early 10-4 lead. But the Redwings were able to extend the advantage to 18-11 on a kill by sophomore Veronica Snelling, and the Saints were unable to respond.
“We ran out of steam,” said St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull, whose team was denied its fourth sectional title in eight years. “When you’ve been coaching this long, you know that when you give everything you have and it doesn’t come through, it kind of bursts a bubble.
“Benet’s a team that we didn’t even think at the beginning of the season we’d be competing with, and by the end of the season our kids just put it together. They did everything that they could, and that’s all you can ask at the end of the day.”
Snelling led Benet with 10 kills, and Tiffany Clark (seven digs), Dana Griffin (10 digs) and Fara each had five kills. Sara Nielsen had 22 assists and nine digs, and Canulli added nine digs and a pair of aces.
St. Charles East got seven kills from junior Avery Macklin, six kills from sophomore Kyla Augustine, and five kills and 12 assists from Megan Schildmeyer.