Veronica Snelling-Sara Nielsen connection works wonders for Benet

SHARE Veronica Snelling-Sara Nielsen connection works wonders for Benet

Veronica Snelling and Sara Nielsen hold a common bond at Benet, the only sophomore starters on a senior-laden volleyball team.

That connection runs deeper.

The girls have gone to school since the first grade, through Hadley Junior High in Glen Ellyn to Benet. They’ve been volleyball teammates since grade three, first with the Lions Juniors and later Sports Performance.

“I can completely trust her with anything she tells me to do,” said Snelling, a right-side hitter. “It’s easy to communicate with her.”

That synergy is crystallizing at the varsity level now for No. 3 Benet, and the two teamed up to help the Redwings past Providence 25-16, 25-13 on Tuesday in Lisle.

Snelling had a match-high seven kills out of the 19 assists from Nielsen, Benet’s setter. Snelling had five kills in Game 1 for fast-starting Benet, including a ferocious throwdown from the left pin pushing the home team ahead 9-2. Nielsen’s clever over-the-shoulder dump shot made it 13-4.

Nielsen is still working through the normal kinks of a first-year varsity setter — but she doesn’t need to think twice with Snelling.

“I always know where she wants to be set,” Nielsen said.

It’s no secret that Benet (9-0, 2-0 East Suburban Catholic) wants to get Northwestern-bound middle Rachael Fara as many touches as possible, but pin hitters like Snelling further allow the Redwings to run the much-desired diverse offense. Fara and Dana Griffin had five kills Tuesday, Tiffany Clark three.

“We want our set distribution to be pretty even. We don’t want teams to be able to camp on one person,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are or what age you are, you have to be able to do your part. Having a right side in high school is huge.”

Providence (6-5, 0-2) itself is breaking in its share of youth this fall — the Celtics play just one senior on full rotation.

But the Celtics seemed to find their game midway through the first, setting up well to block Fara’s slide attempts and digging out several hard-hit Benet balls. Providence was within 13-10 in Game 2 after a kill from the right pin by Kaitlyn Peil.

“We’re a feisty team,” Providence coach Rachel Ellingson said. “Obviously we started a little bit slow, but we got some good blocks and good digs on them. Benet is a great team.”

And Benet responded like good teams do, at 14-11 ripping off a back-breaking 5-0 run. Snelling put down a pair of kills off Providence blocks, and Fara had a kill sandwiched around two Celtics errors.

“I feel like we kind of got into a slump, we were making some stupid mistakes,” Nielsen said. “We needed to clean it up.”

Natalie Canulli had 15 digs and Clark 10 for Benet — whose coach wasn’t expecting a cakewalk in its first matchup with Providence.

“Providence is a very good team,” Baker said. “They were ranked in the preseason top 10 for a reason.”

Anna Smagala and Liza Ellingson each had three kills, Cory Griffith 10 digs and Alles seven assists for Providence. Coach Ellingson is eager for a return visit from Benet later in the new home-and-home league schedule.

“We’re so young, and we’re really learning about the speed of varsity,” Ellingson said. “The juniors are learning a lot and I’m seeing improvement. That’s what you have to take from a loss.”

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