Benet setter Stephanie Sinnappan ran off the court moments before her team was to take on Plainfield North in the championship of the Wheaton Classic on Saturday.
“I was nauseous,” the 6-foot senior said. “I think some food went down the wrong way. Maybe dehydration. I have to drink more water. Before we started I said I needed to get this out of my system so I could play because I feel so nauseous right now.
“But after a few moments, I was able to shake it off and said ‘Yes, I’m ready to go,’” she added. “It was a sigh of relief.”
Six aces and 20 assists later, there was no relief for Plainfield North.
Sinnappan led Benet (14-1) to its third consecutive Wheaton Classic title with a 25-9, 25-18 victory over Plainfield North. It was Benet’s 11th straight regular-season tournament title since losing to Joliet Catholic in the finals of the Mizuno Scholastic Cup tournament in 2010.
The Redwings got eight kills from Whitney Battoe, six kills from Ashley Hitchcock, five kills from Rachael Fara and nine digs from Caroline Wolf and a gutsy – literally – effort from their setter, who strung together five aces during an 8-0 service run in Game One.
“I’ve only seen it twice, and both times [when] somebody’s thrown up, they played great,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “Didn’t Michael [Jordan] do it, too? But once the match got going, she [Sinnappan] was able to focus on the match, which was good to see.”
“We were able to take [Plainfield North] out of system, and you get any high school team out of system and it becomes easier,” he added. “Your blockers can focus on one half of the court. They don’t have three hitters to defend. It makes things a lot easier, and that’s part of our goal defensively.”
Trailing 14-5 in Game Two, Plainfield North (18-2) was able to put together runs of 4-0 and 5-0 to close within 18-15. But Benet regained the momentum behind back-to-back kills by Battoe and two net violations by the Tigers before Hitchcock put the match away with a winner from the left side.
“Our passing completely shut down, and our communication went soon after that,” Plainfield North coach Tracey Marshall said. “We completely unraveled. It wasn’t anything that Benet did, we did it to ourselves. We weren’t competing like we did all weekend. That was not us out there.”
Kate Federico had nine assists, three kills and an ace to lead the Tigers, who also got four kills form Dakota Santore.
“This was our first time here [in the championship match] so jitters played a part, and we’re really young,” Marshall said. “We only have two seniors. But still, we’ve made tremendous strides this year. At least we have something to work on. At the end of the year, it will look a lot different.”
Plainfield North reached the championship by defeating Sandburg 25-23, 25-18 after the Eagles (11-4) had stunned No. 3 seed Marist (7-4) 17-25, 25-17, 25-23 in the quarterfinals.
“That [Marist] match was a gut-check for us,” Sandburg coach David Vales said. “After the first game, [assistant coach Lauren] Billo told the girls the worst they could do is lose. That’s when they started getting their serves in and they got that ‘deer in the headlight’ look out of their eyes.”
Benet reached the championship match by handing St. Charles North its first loss of the season, 25-15, 25-13 in those two teams’ semifinal match.
“We let them rattle us,” St. Charles North coach Lindsey Hawkins said. “That was the first time I’ve actually seen us break down. If our passing was on, then we couldn’t find the court. If our passing was off, everything seemed to be breaking down. We’ve got to learn from this.”
Lemont (12-4), which lost to Waubonsie Valley in pool play Wednesday, won the Silver division by defeating Wheaton North 25-16, 25-17.
“I told the girls this was the first time we’ve walked out of this tournament 4-1 in a long time,” Lemont coach Chris Zogata said. “The top eight teams here are some of the best in the state, so I can’t complain about finishing right behind them or right with them somewhere.”