The headline on the cover of a recent edition of Volleyball magazine consisted of just one word, “DYNASTY!”
The headline was referring to Penn State, but it might as well have been talking about Benet.
The Redwings have won three of the last four Class 4A state championships. This fall, they defeated Mother McAuley 27-25, 37-35, in what was arguably the most thrilling supersectional match played in state history, on their way to a 41-1 record.
The gentleman behind that success is Brad Baker, who is 298-30 in his eight seasons at the school. In addition to winning three state titles, his Redwings have been the runner-up two other times.
Baker efforts were recognized when the magazine named him the National Coach of the Year.
Baker had his doubt entering the season about just how well the Redwings would do.
“I thought going into the year that our first contact was going to be really good,” he told Volleyball managzine. “Anytime you can stay in system, it gives you a chance. Over and over again we showed the ability to stop teams. The question this year was would we be able to generate offense?
“We knew we would have to have offense to beat the best teams and be one of the best teams in the nation, and we ended up having plenty.”
Benet senior libero Natalie Canulli was quoted as saying that Baker played a major role in this year’s state-title run.
“Coach is always prepared and always expects the best from us no matter what the circumstances are,” she said. “He puts the belief in our minds that we are capable of being successful. He’s always supportive and always wants us to reach our full potential.
“He gives us the tools to be successful and it’s up to us if we want to do that. I don’t think he gets enough credit for what he does here.”
Benet had four Division I recruits on the 2014 roster: Canulli (Penn State), Rachael Fara (Northwestern), Meghan Weber (Wright State) and junior Tiffany Clark (Michigan).
But Baker told the magazine that the run of success was a complete team effort.
“All our kids work really hard year-round,” he said. “You can’t have just one or two good kids. You need a team full of committed and hard-working kids. Otherwise you won’t get it done.”
Volleyball magazine also recently announced it 2014 Girls’ High School All-Americans.
The first team featured Rachael Fara, the 6-foot-3 middle blocker from Benet and Northwestern recruit. Ryann DeJarld of Mother McAuley, who is headed to Notre Dame in the fall, was a second team All-American. St. Francis junior Molly Haggerty was an honorable mention choice.
Sami Knight of Sandburg, Hannah Juley of Lyons and Rachel Burau of Wheaton Warrenville South were among the finalists for Prepvolleyball.com’s Andi Collins Award to Nation’s Top Senior Setter.
Cancer claimed Collins a month shy of her 17th birthday on September 4, 2003, The Andi Collins Award, presented in her honor and memory, recognizes the best senior setter in the nation. There were 65 finalists for the award this year.
Burau, a 5-10 Wake Forest signee, earned all-conference and all-area honors after amassing 777 assists, 154 kills, 137 digs, 65 blocks and 26 aces in 2014. Juley was an Under Armour All-America selection and Top 100 Senior Ace who signed with Wisconsin.
Knight, 5-7 S, who was a first team Sun-Times All-Area and is headed to SIU-Edwardsville in the fall, had 725 assists, 225 digs, 75 kills and 60 aces for a 32-5 team. Sandburg was 124-30 during her four years as a starter.
The 5th Annual Illinois High School Volleyball Coaches Clinic will be held Saturday, March 21, at Niles West.
Coaches in attendance will be able to meet the staff of the 2014 NCAA men’s national champion Loyola Ramblers. The keynote session will be hosted by AVCA Coach of the Year Shane Davis. Other sessions will be hosted by numerous local college and high school coaches.
Among the speakers will be two-time US Olympian Eddie Williams, AVCA Thirty Under 30 Award winner Matt McCarthy, Loyola assistant coach Mark Hulse and US Boys Youth National Team assistant coach Kris Berzins.
For more information, go to http://www.leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=ihsvca.
Registering for the conference will also renew coaches’ IHSVCA and AVCA memberships and continue the excellent services provided for the high school volleyball community.
Prepvolleyball.com recently released a list of collegiate recruits from Illinois in the senior, junior and sophomore classes.
Recruits from Illinois who will graduate this spring include Rachel Alles of Providence Catholic (Wingate University), Lauren Anderson of Deer Creek-Mackinaw (Lipscomb University), Alex Basler of Libertyville HS (Cornell) and Becky Breuer from Waubonsie Valley (Emory University).
Also, Riley Burchett of from Nazareth Academy (West Virginia). Amber Casey from Mother McAuley (University of St. Francis0, Keegan Fornoff and Madeline Grimm from Joliet Catholic (Southeast Missouri State), and Phoebe Havenaar from Naperville Central (Wingate University).
Libero Maddie Jaudon from Batavia HS has committed to Elon University, Susan Jeziorowski from Crystal Lake Central has committed to Tennessee Tech, Celine Jones from Lyons Township HS has committed to North Carolina-Asheville, and Siera Kepski from Carmel has committed to IUPUI.
Also, Mikaela Mosquera of St. Charles East HS (Missouri State), Mary Murphy of Joliet Catholic (Western Michigan), Colleen Reilly from Marist (Wofford College), Megan Schildmeyer from St. Charles East (Wingate), Grace Schofield from Carmel (Drake) and Kristin Somerville from St. Ignatius (Holy Cross).
Juniors who have verbally committed include Kayla Caffey from Mother McAuley (Missouri), Catie Cronister from the Latin School (Wofford College), Emma Decker from Nazareth Academy (Villanova University) and Jane DeJarld from Mother McAuley (Boston College).
Also, Jennifer Dore from Naperville North (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), Daniele Messa from St. Francis (Missouri State University) and Minooka’s Ginger Perinar (Southern Illinois).
Sophomore Grace Loberg from Geneva has committed to Wisconsin and Ashley Shook from Plainfield Central has committed to Texas.