After losing at Marian Catholic and Marist within the last two weeks, Benet took its show on the road for another clash with an East Suburban Catholic Conference powerhouse. Thursday, the Redwings were at Joliet Catholic.
The environment was just as unfriendly as the previous two stops, only the result was different.
"This is a great environment," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "There are a lot of fans screaming and yelling, and you can't simulate the postseason in practice but this is as close as you're going to get. You have to be able to travel, to go on the road and play in a hostile environment."
Any hostility Benet might have encountered turned into frustration as the Redwings defeated Joliet Catholic 25-14, 25-22 to hand the Angels their first league loss.
Cara Mattaliano collected 12 kills and an ace, Brittany Pavich had six kills, Nicole Barnes added five kills, Hannah Kaminsky added 25 assists and libero Sheila Doyle was credited with 17 service points and eight digs as Benet improved to 19-2.
Defense and passing have replaced a high-ball offense as a Benet staple this season.
"We had a real good week of practice and that showed today," Mattaliano said. "Every day at practice, the passers stay late and get in some extra repetitions. We know in order to have a fast offense, we have to pass the ball up to Hannah. So we're working really hard to keep up with the passing."
Joliet Catholic coach Chris Scheibe, who watched video of Benet's match at Marist, tried to warn her team that the Redwings would bring the defense Thursday.
"I spent the afternoon watching them and Marist and the thing I said to the girls was that they're (Benet) in defensive position every single play," she said. "It's not going to be easy because they're always in position, and we just have to keep going at them and going at them and going at them.
"Unfortunately, we didn't pass well enough to keep going at them," Scheibe added.
Benet (4-2 in the conference) jumped out to an 11-5 lead in Game 1 only to watch Joliet Catholic fight to within 12-11 on back-to-back kills by Katelyn Seeman. A block by Kaminsky stretched Benet's lead to 15-12, and then Doyle stepped to the service line.
The 5-foot-5 senior, better known for her defensive wizardry, proceeded to serve eight consecutive points including three aces to give the visitors an insurmountable 23-12 advantage.
Game 2 was more of the same as Benet broke a tie at 13 with an 8-3 run fueled by a pair of kills by Barnes. Joliet Catholic got within 23-20, but 6-2 sophomore middle Rachael Fara ended the drama with a quick hitter over the middle.
Morgan Reardon led Joliet Catholic (19-3, 5-1) with nine kills, Seeman added four and Mallory Mangun dealt the rock 16 times to go along with a kill.
"I think Morgan sometimes wants it so bad she tries to take the weight of the world on her shoulders and tries to impress too much," Scheibe said. "It's just a matter of her finding shots sometimes instead of going strong and powerful all the time."