AURORA – Minooka's team motto this season has revolved around character.
Battling volleyball powerhouse Benet, Minooka head coach Carrie Prosek thought her team in game one came out scared due to the reputation Benet's name carries.
"That name scares them," Prosek said. "So, that's kinda what we focused on: We've gotta play for ourselves, and not worry about who we're playing. So, they came out, and showed they could play with anybody."
Minooka shook off an early deficit, dropping the first game and rallied behind the power of Alli Papesh, Holly Bonde and Rocky Perinar to overcome Benet 21-25, 25-19 25-22 in the Scholastic Cup final at Aurora's Great Lakes Center.
In game three, Minooka jumped out to a 7-3 lead, and would nurse it to a 14-9 advantage. Yet, Benet would not go quietly, chipping away with a 4-0 run and behind 16-15.
After trading points, a mishit by Minooka tied the game at 17-17, where the two teams would battle to three more ties before the game was over. Junior Allison Van Eekeren suffered an apparent right ankle injury while landing, but stayed in the game with the score close.
Tied 22-22, Minooka earned two quick points. Following a Benet timeout, Minooka libero Taylor Baranski dug out a strike from Benet's Rachel Muisenga in a twirling bop that allowed the setter to perfectly time the volley to allow the decisive strike through the teeth of the defense.
Papesh took care of the rest, ensuring her team's gold bracket victory at the Scholastic Cup in Aurora on Oct. 7.
"We know we have to play well," Benet coach Brad Baker said. "You have to expect the other team to play well, and you're going to have to reach that level or higher."
Perinar (16 kills), Papesh (14 kills) and Bonde (four kills, two aces) led Minooka.
Benet was paced offensively by Lilly Johnson (10 kills), Caitlin McGee (six kills) and Van Eekeren (five).
Benet has been missing prominent outside hitter, Claire Byrne, to an ankle injury the past five days. Balancing a new lineup, Baker sees lots of areas for improvement moving forward.
"At times, we got tentative," he said. "Balls we needed to be swinging at, and we're tippin'...We can't go on-and-off...It's got to be 90 minutes full-go."