Benet received a stiffer than expected challenge from host Geneva on Monday, but the Redwings rose to the occasion when it mattered most.
Scott Kleiser had two big kills late in the first set and Garrett Metzger pounded six of his 11 kills in the second set as Benet won 25-23, 25-21.
“They [played us] very tough,” Metzger said. “They have some really talented players. Also, we had a few lulls where they dug the energy a lot and that gave us a few problems.”
But it wasn’t anything the Redwings (24-10) couldn’t handle, thanks in large part to Metzger. With the Vikings ahead 17-14 in the opening game, the 6-5 senior middle blocker spiked a kill to start a rally.
Geneva followed with two errors before Sam Wulflkuhle got a kill that gave the Vikings (12-15) an 18-17 lead. That would turn out to be their last lead as Metzger tied it with a kill.
With the score tied at 21, Kleiser and Josh Martinez had back-to-back kills to put Benet in front and Martinez clinched it with a kill.
The Redwings played a little looser in the second set and ran their offense through Metzger.
“In the second set we started running the middle a lot more and I think that helped our team a lot, especially with kill percentage and kill efficiency, keeping errors down,” Metzger said.
Errors ultimately ruined a nice comeback by Geneva, which rallied six times to tie the game, the last at 21-21.
“There was a couple of them where we ended with an error one way or another, a communication error or a ball we threw out of bounds,” Geneva coach K.C. Johnsen said. “They did that a couple of times but not as many as us.
“You throw in one or two big swing points. We were trading swing points I thought pretty good but those unforced errors made a different.”
The biggest swing came during the last tie. The Vikings thought they had taken a lead on a Nick Buseski kill that may have hit the line.
The play was too close to call so officials ordered the point replayed. The ensuing rally was the longest of the match and ended when Kleiser blocked Jon Bishop.
That took the air out of the Vikings as it was followed by a Metzger kill, a Geneva hitting error and an ace from Benet libero Logan Ladowski.
“I think we’re definitely playing well,” Benet coach Amy Van Eekeren said. “I think today we just played a little bit of a slower tempo game for us.
“I like the speed of the game a little quicker, the passes to be a little lower and the sets to be a little quicker. Those are little corrections that we can make in practice.”
Mark Schuessler had five kills and Martinez four for Benet, which also received three kills and three blocks from Kleiser and nine digs from Ladowski.
Buseski had seven kills and Chris Parrilli had six to lead Geneva, which impressed Van Eekeren.
“The good thing about Geneva is they are a newer program and they continue to improve every year. I think they proved that tonight.”
Johnsen agreed but would like see it result in more victories.
“I don’t know that we’re satisfied with just improving,” Johnsen said. “We’ll take the improvement and try to build on it.”