Girls Volleyball: Benet overcomes slow start, cruises to regional title

Story Image Hannah Kaminsky (15) scores Benet's twenty-fourth point of the second game against Naperville Central with her back to the net. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

Updated: October 25, 2012 8:39PM

Naperville Central could not have asked for a better start.

But momentum can be a fickle thing, and once the RedHawks lost it, it was gone for a long, long time.

Cara Mattaliano had 10 kills, Brittany Pavich added six kills and a block and Hannah Kaminsky added 25 assists and two aces as No. 1-ranked Benet rallied from a 12-5 deficit in the first game of its Class 4A regional final Thursday to defeat the host Redhawks 25-18, 25-20.

After closing Game One on a 20-6 run, the Redwings (35-2) scored 18 of the first 24 points of Game Two before Naperville Central mounted a late charge.

“We’ve talked about this for 10 years,” Naperville central coach Brie Isaacson said. “Momentum is one of the biggest things about volleyball. We lost the momentum and we didn’t catch it again until the end of the second set.

“If we had caught it five points earlier in the second set, who knows?” the coach added. “But they were able to find the momentum and sustain it longer than we were. I think that was a difference in this match.”

Benet, which had beaten Naperville Central twice previously in straight sets, may have looked tight at the onset. But libero Sheila Doyle said her teammates never lost confidence.

“I think it was just coming out, it was our first really good, tough match, especially on their own court, it was just a little overwhelming,” Doyle said. “I was really impressed by how we stay composed. Coming back in that first game showed how mentally tough we are.

A kill by sophomore Phoebe Havenaar gave Naperville Central (28-9) its seven-point lead in Game One. But Benet answered with a 12-2 run behind 6-2 sophomore Rachael Fara (three kills), Mattaliano (six kills) and Nicki Barnes (three kills, block).

“Between games, we talked about coming out strong and staying focused,” Doyle said. “We didn’t want to start off slowly like we did in Game One against a team that was fired up, on their home court, in front of their home crowd with their season on the line.”

Game Two belonged to Kaminsky and 6-3 junior Brittany Pavich. Kaminsky opened the set with a pair of aces, and Pavich’s kill followed by consecutive Central errors forced a Naperville timeout with the hosts trailing 14-7.

“Brittany and Rachael are both amazing middles,” Kaminsky said. “I cannot believe how far they have come this year. It’s crazy. They put the ball down every time I get them the ball. I have so much confidence in them. I love setting them.”

Trailing 21-14, Naperville Central mounted a final run to close within 23-19 on a kill by Nikki Connors (three kills, two blocks). But Kaminsky’s kill on a blind bump over her right shoulder and another Pavich quick-hitter ended the drama.

Fara finished with four kills and Doyle contributed 10 digs and an assist for Benet. Naperville Central got six kills and a block from Sammy Condon, four kills and five assists from Alysia Baznik and eight assists and two kills from Abbi Williamson.

“We played hard,” Isaacson said. “We tried different things. Benet’s a good team. When we were up in the first set, I knew that it wasn’t going to be the end of it. They have fresh history on their side. They still felt comfortable, and as we started to pull back we got out of system a little bit.

“We fought hard from Point 1 to Point 50,” she added. “They were up seven, eight points again in the second set and we kept chipping away and chipping away at the score. That’s what I’m going to remember about tonight.”

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