Benet rallys to defeat Mother McAuley in Class 4A supersectional

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Benet coach Brad Baker was awestruck.

“That 10 points is the best 10 points I’ve ever seen two teams play at a high level,” he said about the final 10 points of Saturday’s Hinsdale Central Class 4A Supersectional against defending state champion Mother McAuley.

“To serve receive and to pass and to be able to set all options. It was unbelievable. It was almost like surreal. It was like, ‘Is this really going on?’ I’ve been involved in a ton of volleyball matches. Awesome. Awesome.”

Baker was talking about the final 10 points of the match, but he just as easily could have been talking about all 124 points it took to decide what many were calling the true Class 4A state championship match.

After rallying from down six points to win Game 1 and squandering a 19-16 lead in Game 2, Benet fought off eight set points and finally converted on its sixth match point to defeat McAuley, 27-25, 37-35, and earn a berth in next week’s semifinals at Redbird Arena.

Outside hitter Dana Griffin, who watched from the bench when Benet (39-1) won the 2012 state title, led the winners with 12 kills.

“We made it a point this match that they would have to kill us before we stopped trying hard every single point,” she said. “We had to use our momentum as much as we could. We had to fight for every single point. It was a bloodbath.”

McAuley (36-4) broke a 10-10 tie in Game 1 and used a kill from junior Kayla Caffey and a Benet error to ease to a 20-14 lead. But the Redwings stormed back, fighting off two set points and pulling even at 24-24 on back-to-back McAuley errors.

A kill by sophomore Veronica Snelling put Benet ahead 26-25, and a slide by 6-foot-3 senior middle hitter Rachael Fara ended the set at 27-25.

Trailing 19-16 in Game 2, McAuley pushed ahead at 20-19 on Kennedy Arundel’s block. Benet rallied to earn match points at 24-22 and 24-23, but the Mighty Macs fought off both points and earned a set point at 25-24. Tiffany Clark got Benet even at 25-25, setting off the final furious finish.

Benet thought it won the match at 31-29, but a Redwing kill was ruled to have grazed the antenna. McAuley earned set points at 33-32, 34-33 and 35-34, but two McAuley errors sandwiched around a Snelling kill put the match to rest.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” McAuley’s Kelsey Clark said. “We just gave everything we had. We left it all on the court, and if it didn’t come our way, then it didn’t come our way. We played together as a team, and that’s all that matters.”

Clark led McAuley with 11 kills and a block. Ryann DeJarld added nine kills and three aces, Caffey and Arundel (six digs) both added eight kills, Amber Casey had 21 assists, junior Jane DeJarld added 15 assists and Carla Cahill contributed nine digs.

“We had to meet up somewhere,” McAuley coach Jen DeJarld said. “We knew it was going to be a battle. They (Benet) played a tremendous game tonight. We played not to lose. I could tell in their faces and in their eyes. Emotions were running very high.

“They made a major comeback against us, and we made a major comeback against them, so I couldn’t ask them (her team) to play any harder.”

Snelling added nine kills for Benet, which also got five kills and five digs from junior Tiffany Clark, seven digs from Natalie Canulli, 34 assists from sophomore setter Sara Nielsen and seven kills and two blocks from Fara.

“Matches like these are the reason we play volleyball, and it’s the reason why I love my team so much,” Fara said. “We asked them to give their all tonight. We asked that from each other.”

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