Benet goes back-to-back? That’s a fact, Jack.

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Benet did a lot of this during 2012, including after its final match of the season.

Chicago Sun-Times Final 2012 Top 10 Girls Volleyball Teams

(Preseason ranking in parenthesis)

1. Benet 40-2 (8)

Benet coach Brad Baker took a collection of club “B” team players and an outside hitter who was a team manager for the school’s 2011 title team and molded them into a state champion. Benet became the first team since Mother McAuley in 1995-95 to win back-to-back championships among the state’s biggest schools. “I give credit to our freshman, sophomore and JV coaches who prepare these kids so that they’re ready when it’s their turn,” Baker said. Whose turn is it next year? The Redwings will build around returnees Brittany Pavich, Rachael Fara, Caroline Wolf and sophomore Natalie Canulli, whose four kills, two aces and a block were huge in the championship game win over New Trier.

2. New Trier 39-2 (NR)

The Trevians came oh-so-close to their first state title since winning the inaugural tournament back in 1975. But coach Hannah Hsieh will welcome back a strong nucleus around which to build including one of the best setters in the country, 6-foot Taylor Tashima, who had 32 assists and seven kills in the title-game loss to Benet. Also back will be the towering tandem of 6-3 junior Haley Fauntleroy (seven kills against Benet and four kills and six block assists against McAuley in the semifinals) and 6-4 sophomore Sarah Shafiq, and libero Emmy Friedler.

3. Mother McAuley 37-5 (2)

Mother McAuley coach Jen DeJarld expects the Mighty Macs to be ranked in the top three nationally entering the 2013 season, and who can argue? Five of the Macs’ top players were sophomores – outside hitter Ryann DeJarld, outside hitter Kennedy Arundel, libero Carla Cahill, rightside hitter Maggie Scanlon and middle hitter Kelsey Clark – and three more were juniors – setter Courtney Joyce, middle Gabrielle Ennis and outside hitter Molly Geary. One observer noted that McAuley still must find that “go-to” player at crunch time, but the physically-imposing Clark could be that player.

4. Libertyville 34-8 (NR)

The Wildcats did not win a match downstate, but they erased any doubts that they belonged among the state’s elite. They took Game 1 off Benet and led 15-10 in Game 2 before the eventual state champions rallied, and led McAuley 22-20 in Game 1 of the third-place match before a service error began their downfall. Coach Greg Loika bids farewell to the nucleus of his 34-8 team, including setter Cindy Zhou, libero Kristen Webb, rightside hitter Taylor Zant and outside hitter Julia Smagacz, and will undertake a major rebuilding job in 2013.

5. St. Francis 37-5 (3)

Ugly uniforms or no, there was no stopping St. Francis last weekend in Normal. The Spartans won the school’s ninth state title despite challenges from Champaign Centennial and the Ali Frantti-powered Richmond-Burton. The challenge next year for veteran coach Peg Kopec is replacing setter McKenna Kelsay, but whoever moves into that role will have a lot of offense to work with in the persons of Molly and Maddie Haggerty and middle hitter Mary Boken. A 10th state title isn’t assured next season, but the Spartans will enter 2013 as the overwhelming favorites.

6. Marist 31-6 (1)

Lost to Lincoln-Way Central in the regional finals.

7. Joliet Catholic 32-7 (NR)

Lost to St. Francis in the sectional finals.

8. Glenbard West 37-3 (6)

Lost to New Trier in the supersectional.

9. West Aurora 32-6 (NR)

Lost to Benet in the regional finals.

10. Sandburg 29-9 (5)

Lost to Mother McAuley in the sectional semifinals.

Others: Richmond-Burton 35-6, Naperville Central 28-9, Prairie Ridge 30-10, Hinsdale South 31-8, Stagg 31-8, Marian Catholic 28-9, Stevenson 34-4, Lincoln-Way Central 29-9, Lemont 26-13, Naperville North 27-9, Hinsdale Central 14-26, St. Ignatius 28-10, Crystal Lake South 26-10, Providence 25-12, Geneva 30-8, Palatine 27-12, Hersey 32-6, Trinity 26-9, Nazareth 24-14, Chicago Christian 24-16, St Charles East 25-13, Plainfield North 27-9, Oak Lawn 25-8.

Did you know? Benet setter Hannah Kaminsky finished her high school career having never lost a tournament game of any kind on any level – freshman, sophomore or varsity. Her two-year varsity career included 79 wins, five losses, a 40-0 record in eight regular-season tournaments, and a 14-0 record and two championships in state tournament play.

One final thought: Anyone in the media room following St. Francis’ 25-21, 25-20 victory over Richmond-Burton for the IHSA Class 3A title had to be moved when sophomore Mary Boken spoke about her sister, Megan, a member of the last St. Francis championship team in 2006 who was murdered in St. Louis in August. There wasn’t an athlete in the state who displayed more courage than the young sophomore did this season, playing through that anguish thanks in large part to the support of her teammates and the St. Francis volleyball family.

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