Naperville Central’s Jon Chiczewski was hoping to sit out the championship match of the Benet Invitational on Saturday to rest some painful shin splints.
But that plan went out the window after the hosts took a 19-12 lead in Game 1.
“If we could win without me that was the intention,” said Chiczewski, who did not play in the Redhawks’ 25-22, 25-13 semifinal win over St. Francis. “But Benet kind of surprised us, especially compared to how they played against us earlier in the day. I was ready to step in if I needed to.”
Chiczewski entered Game 1 and immediately made a difference, supplying four of his 11 kills to close out the first game as the Redhawks (26-3) rallied for a 25-23, 23-25, 25-16 victory over Benet and earned their first title of the eight-team tournament.
“This is a really important tournament,” Chiczewski said. “All these teams are in our sectional and we knew we might have to face them in order to get to state. We wanted to come out and play our best with or without me. I think we show here that we’re a tough team to beat.”
The championship match was a far cry from the teams’ pool play finale won by Naperville Central 25-15, 25-18 three hours earlier.
“The first time around, I think Benet came out slow,” Naperville Central libero Raymond Chang said. “But after they beat Glenbard West in the semifinals, they came out fired up. We couldn’t match them. Their passing was a lot better in the second match.
“Their libero made some great passes and they were able to set the middle. Our coaches told us to dig deep, stay on our toes and slow the game down in our heads. We stayed aggressive. Our defense was spectacular today.”
Like it did in Game 1, Benet (17-8) built a seven-point lead at 16-9 in Game 2 as Garrett Metzger supplied three kills, two blocks and two aces in the game. Naperville Central pulled to within 21-20 on a Chiczewski kill, but the Redwings got a kill from Josh Martinez to close out the game.
“Garrett is such a dominant middle, we have to be able to get him the ball,” Benet coach Amy Van Eekeren said. “Once we establish the middle, then we can run the ball out to the pins. We didn’t pass well this morning so it was easy to read us.”
In Game 3, however, it was Naperville Central building the early lead, forcing Benet timeouts up 17-11 and again at 21-12. Jack Burton’s kill off a Chiczewski set extended the lead to 24-15 before the match ended on a Benet double hit.
Burton led Naperville Central with 16 kills and three aces, Dan Trembacki added 36 assists and Chang had 10 digs. Kasper Mazurek, Michael Timmerberg and Tanner Beck each had three kills.
Six-foot-5 junior outside hitter Mark Schuessler led Benet with 12 kills, junior Scott Kleiser added eight, Metzger had seven kills and five blocks, Ben Mazza had 14 assists and two aces and Jackson Van Eekeren added 12 assists and an ace.