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New lineup sparked Benet's resurgence
By Joshua Welge | Daily Herald Staff

Grace Churney of St. Francis hits the ball past Molly Cook of Wheaton Acadamy girls volleyball action Monday in Wheaton.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Kelly Reinke of St. Francis, right, gets to the ball in action against Wheaton Acadamy during girls volleyball Monday in Wheaton.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Lindsay Copler of Wheaton Acadamy hits the ball over to St. Francis in girls volleyball action Monday in Wheaton.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

Daiva Wise, left of St. Francis and Jen Schmitz of Wheaton Acadamy, right, in action at the net during girls volleyball Monday in Wheaton.

 

Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

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Published: 10/4/2010 11:22 PM

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If this is midterm week for Benet, the Redwings look like they are ready to be tested.

No. 6 Benet (16-4) has shaken off a slow start to the season by winning 12 of its last 13 matches. The Redwings haven't even lost a game over their last 11 wins.

On Wednesday, Benet plays at Marist the last team to beat the Redwings back on Sept. 18 at the Wheaton Classic. Two nights later ,Benet begins pool play as the No. 1 seed at the Mizuno Cup.

"Matches like this week are the ones that are the most enjoyable," Benet coach Brad Baker said.

A lineup shuffle right about a month ago keyed Benet's resurgence, with Meghan Haggerty moving back to middle. The Redwings are also running a 5-1 with Kaitlyn King handling all the setting duties.

"These last few matches we're starting to be more diverse offensively," Baker said. "We're starting to get into a rhythm offensively. When you have as many hitters as we do it makes it that much better for everybody."

Benet's defense has also picked up.

"We've been playing good team defense," Baker said, "where everybody is accountable for what they're doing. We rate every single time we play defense. We want A's every time. We're getting closer every time we play."

The top four seeds at Mizuno, which is played at Aurora's Great Lakes Center, are Benet, downstate power Edwardsville, Incarnate Word (Wisc.) and St. Charles East, who beat Benet in the season-opening match. Edwardsville is ranked No. 92 in the country according to PrepVolleyball.com. The next four are Belleville Althoff, Hinsdale Central, Joliet Catholic and Rosary. Naperville Central, Naperville North, Neuqua Valley, Hinsdale South and Wheaton Warrenville South are other teams at the tournament.

The championship match is scheduled for 1 p.m. This is Benet's first year at the Mizuno.

"This weekend will be a great test. That's why we are in this tournament," Baker said. "Win or lose it helps you. There's no doubt that the girls are extremely confident right now, as they should be."

Practice makes perfect: It isn't often that Neuqua Valley coach Kelly Simon is able to practice three straight days once the season starts. A light schedule last week allowed for it, though.

"My husband said to me 'gosh it seems like you've been practicing forever,' " Simon said.

Simon said the girls have taken good advantage of the practice time.

"We've done a lot more blocking," she said, "and really upped the ante on our attacking. We've worked on simple things like putting down balls for kills rather than just putting it on the court.

"We've also done a lot of rallying in practice. When it's not a pass to our setter we still need to win those rallies. We seem to be feeding off of each other so much better."

Simon called the Warrior Blast, where Neuqua (16-4) took fourth, a "turning point" in the season. The Wildcats have a tough road ahead with Hinsdale South on Wednesday, the Mizuno Cup this weekend and matches with St. Charles East and Waubonsie Valley still to go.

Simon felt that Kaitlynn Novak stepped up at the Warrior Blast and that libero Megan Tompkins "has identified what her leadership role is."

Simon also noted Brigid Campbell for her leadership and Leighanne Novak for her solid play all season.

"Players have really stepped up to allow us to make great strides," Simon said. "It took awhile for eight newcomers to step in and recognize what their role are. I think everybody does now."

Redhawks sophomores making strides: Naperville Central coach Brie Isaacson said sophomore Alysia Baznik "still does one crazy thing every match."

But the second-year varsity player is doing a lot more good things.

"She's starting to get the game," Isaacson said.

"She's athletic as all get out and she's starting to become a volleyball player. She's really stepped up for me as a leader."

Isaacson noted that another sophomore, middle Sammy Condon, has given the Redhawks a good block and a presence at the net. Naperville Central (9-10, 5-3 DuPage Valley Conference) has won its last two matches, avenging an earlier loss to West Aurora with a convincing 25-13, 25-13 win last Thursday.

"Everybody has got a little bit better," Isaacson said. "They're starting to see what they're capable of. Now it's a matter of doing it all the time."

Trojans on the march: It looks like it will be a three-horse race in the Metro Suburban Conference. Defending champion Illiana Christian, first-year conference member Glenbard South and Timothy Christian are all within a game of each other.

Timothy Christian (14-10, 5-1), coming off a second-place finish at the Manteno Tournament and a win over Ridgewood, is the only conference team to beat Glenbard South.

"We came ready to play for that one," Trojans coach Lindsey Van Schepen said.

Libero Elise Biesboer has provided a strong foundation for Timothy Christian in the back row, with Krista Lodewyk steady at setter and Emma Vander Woude strong in the middle.

"On any given night any of our hitters can step up to the plate," Van Schepen said.

Two matches to circle on the calendar are Timothy Christian's home match with Illiana Oct. 14, followed on Oct. 19 when the Trojans visit Glenbard South.

"We have a chance," Van Schepen said, "especially if we win out."