While Downers Grove North’s defense is not exactly a steel curtain, it is something in which the Trojans take pride.
So the ease with which Benet ripped it to shreds Monday night is an indication of how deserving the visiting Redwings are of their No. 1 ranking.
Sophomore Brittany Pavich pounded two early kills, and that set the tone as Benet (9-1) cruised to a 25-19, 25-14 victory in Downers Grove.
“We definitely just came out and all the hitters were like, ‘Let’s put the ball up, let’s get some swings,’” Benet setter Hannah Kaminsky said. “We just wanted to come out and have fun and that’s what we were doing.
“Having Brittany hit those two balls from the middle straight down was awesome. That got us all going.”
Once that happened, the Redwings were unstoppable. With Kaminsky directing an offense that includes five starting hitters who are 6 feet or taller, Benet jumped out to a 14-5 lead in the opening game and were even more effective in the second set, taking an insurmountable 16-6 advantage.
“Everybody contributed,” Kaminsky said. “It’s awesome because if someone’s having an off game, you have other people to go to and you know someone’s going to put the ball down. It was one of our better games. We definitely all clicked tonight.”
Senior Nora Young paced the ferocious attack with nine kills, while Maddie Haggerty had six kills, Meghan Haggerty four and Pavich and Jenna Jendryk three each. Their height and skill has allowed Kaminsky, a junior in her first year as a starter, to ease into the quarterbacking role. She dished out 24 assists.
“She’s just a junior so there’s really not a whole lot of pressure on her,” Benet coach Brad Baker said. “She just needs to deliver the ball to the hitters and they put the ball away, so she’s doing a great job.
“Downers Grove North is a good team and we’ve just been working on staying in the system a lot. We have some big kids and we want to give them opportunities to hit the ball.”
The Trojans (1-4) had no answer for that, especially in the middle, where middle blockers Karissa Brazdys and Tess Johnson, who both stand 5-9, literally were looking up at the Redwings.
“We’re OK defensively, but when you’ve got a team that hits the way they do, it starts with the block,” Downers North coach Mark Wasik said. “You can ask your back row players to be in the right spot and to make something happen, but if there’s an open net … it’s not even that it was a lack of effort on our part.
“We’re a little undersized in the middle and a lot of times we’re asking our outside and right-side blockers to do a little bit more than they should be expected to because we just don’t have big middles. Our middles do work hard and they’re doing the best they can.”
Hitting wasn’t the only area Benet excelled at. Junior libero Shannon O’Brien tallied 10 service points, including eight straight during a 9-0 run that gave the Redwings an early 10-3 cushion. One of those serves was an ace.
“The past couple weeks her serve has been really good,” Baker said. “It’s been one of her goals to improve that and make it better and her serve has turned into one of our better rotations. (Those runs) are nice to have. They open games up, especially against good teams.”
In contrast, the Trojans could never find a rhythm offensively. Star outside hitter Jessie Tulacka didn’t record her first kill until the 29th point of the match and finished with only three kills, one less than Brazdys, mainly because of a lack of opportunities.
Even so, the Trojans did a nice job of climbing back into the contest, chopping a 16-8 deficit down to 23-19 when Brazdys won a joust at the net. But Maddie Haggerty blasted a pair of kills to close out the set, then began the second game with two more.
Senior setter Taylor Kasal led North with six kills and eight assists in her first full game since returning from a badly sprained ankle, which Wasik said won’t be completely healed for another two weeks. Having Kasal back in the lineup makes Wasik optimistic.
“This is the first match this season we’ve run a lineup that I think we can be successful with in the long term,” Wasik said. “We’ve made strides and there were a lot of things we were a lot better at in this match even though it doesn’t show on the scoreboard.
“We have to use it as a positive that we’re playing top teams in the state pretty much consistently now. We’re 1-4 and yet I’d put us up against 80-90 percent of the teams in the state. We’ll just keep working from here.”