Girls Volleyball: Benet overcomes slow start, advances to state final

Story Image Libertyville's Cindy Zhou (7) celebrates makig the winning kill against Benet Academy in game one of their volleyball state championship semi-final game at Redbird Arena in Normal, IL Friday, November 9, 2012. | Brett Roseman~Sun-Times Media
Story Image

Up a game and leading 15-10 in the second, Libertyville appeared to have No. 1-ranked Benet on the ropes.

But appearances can be deceiving.

Benet went on a 9-0 run to take a 19-15 lead and earn the second game, then used a 10-1 run in Game 3 to build an 18-7 lead on its way to a 20-25, 25-21, 25-13 victory in an IHSA Class 4A state semifinal at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.

The Redwings (39-2) will play New Trier (39-1), a surprising 16-25, 25-22, 25-19 winner over Mother McAuley in the first semifinal, for the Class 4A crown Saturday at 8:55 p.m.

Benet coach Brad Baker said he wasn’t surprised Libertyville took his team to the limit.

“Every time you get down here you have to expect to go three games, you expect you’re going to have to fight” he said. “If we needed to be here an hour-and-a-half, we’ll be here an hour-and-a-half. We were going to go down battling.

“Libertyville pushed us,” he added. “But we were able to fight back.”

Libertyville (36-5) took advantage of a balanced attack – at least five players had two kills each -- and 11 Benet errors to take Game 1. But the Wildcats could not get the Redwings’ Cara Mattaliano off the service line midway through Game 2 and watched their 15-10 lead slip away.

“We had a game plan, we knew their strengths, and we knew what weaknesses we could exploit,” Libertyville coach Greg Loika said. “We came out and passed well, we hit well and we were able to dictate tempo.

“But in Game 2, they started digging everything defensively, they started dictating tempo and created some long rallies and went on that long service run,” he added. “They did the same thing to Edwardsville. It was frustrating.”

Mattaliano, the Redwings’ leading attacker who had only two kills in Game 1, also started asserting herself more offensively. The 6-foot-1 senior had five kills and an ace in game 2 and four kills and a block in game 3.

“I think it took us awhile to get into our groove,” she said. “When we were down 14-10, I told Hannah (Kaminsky) that we weren’t going to let anything drop. We picked it up defensively.”

A kill by Libertyville’s Rhiannon Prentiss had the Wildcats within 8-6 in Game 3, but after a service error by the Wildcats, Benet went on its extended run including eight service points by 6-3 junior middle Brittany Pavich.

Mattaliano led Benet with 12 kills and Pavich added 11 kills and three aces. Sophomore Rachael Fara and Nicki Barnes each had six kills and Kaminsky dealt 32 assists.

“I think it was the fight within us,” Kaminsky said. “We want to do it for each other. A lot of people didn’t think we would get here at the beginning of the season. Now we’re here and I think that says a lot about us.”

Prentiss and Cindy Zhou each had seven kills for Libertyville. Julia Smagacz added six kills and Zhou finished with 21 assists.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” Libertyville libero Kristen Webb said. “We tried to build a little momentum at the end of Game 2, but it’s hard. They’re a great team.”

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