Girls Volleyball: Benet topples New Trier for 4A state title

Story Image Benet Academy coach Brad Baker and the bench celebrate late in game three during their victory over New Trier in the class 4A volleyball state championship title game at Redbird Arena in Normal, IL Saturday, November 10, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: November 10, 2012 11:22PM

NORMAL – Ain’t no mountain high enough.

Cara Mattaliano had 21 kills, Brittany Pavich added nine kills and an ace, and Hannah Kaminsky had 33 assists and three aces as No. 1-ranked Benet rallied from down one set and trailing 20-16 in Game 2 to defeat New Trier, 21-25, 25-22, 25-17 In the IHSA Class 4A state championship match Saturday at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.

The state title was the second in a row for Benet (40-2), which became the first big school team since Mother McAuley in 1994-95 to repeat.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Kaminsky, who finished her career unbeaten in 54 state and regular-season tournament games. “I’m so happy. Everything we worked for. Nobody believed in us at the beginning of the season, and now we win state. We proved everybody wrong.

“We said yesterday in the press conference we have a fight within us,” she added. “We wanted to go down on top. We were not going to let each other down. We were not going to lose. We did it for each other.”

Nobody did more than 6-foot-1 senior Mattaliano, who like she did 24 hours earlier in a come-from-behind win over Libertyville, struggled early and caught fire late.

“I wanted to win so badly,” said Mattaliano, who didn’t even dress for last year’s championship team and served as the team’s manager. “I gave everything I had.”

Mattaliano’s tip over New Trier’s 6-foot-4 sophomore Sarah Shafiq capped a 9-2 run to end Game 2, then her two kills and two Kaminsky aces were part of a 6-1 run to open Game 3.

“We’re like Jekyll and Hyde,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “But I knew if we were going to go down, we would go down fighting. At the beginning of the season nobody believed except these kids and they didn’t want to lose.

“They outplayed us early, but we finished, and that’s all that matters,” he added.

New Trier, which dominated Game 1 and the first 36 points of Game 2, never recovered from Benet’s early push in Game 3.

“We weren’t making some of the adjustments we wanted to make on defense,” New Trier coach Hannah Hsieh said. “Then we played a little tight on offense and started making a lot of unforced errors that we normally don’t make.

“That, combined with them getting a little more confident and in rhythm…,” she added. “We knew we would have to play a good game to take this team and take the championship. We made a little too many inconsistent plays to do that.”

Brittani Steinberg led New Trier (39-2) with 17 kills, Haley Fauntleroy added seven kills and Taylor Tashima had 32 assists and seven kills.

Benet also got three blocks and a kill from sophomore Rachael Fara and four kills and two aces off the bench from sophomore Natalie Canulli. Canulli, who only had 12 kills all season, replaced the injured Nicki Barnes.

“Nicki Barnes hurt her foot last night,” Baker said. “She wasn’t moving, she wasn’t jumping, she wasn’t swinging. Natalie had an opportunity to take advantage of it, and she did.”

Benet had an opportunity, too, and didn’t waste it, although it had to climb a mountain to get there.

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