Something has to give when two top-seeded teams sporting double-digit win steaks match up in the postseason with a trip to the state finals on the line.
Unfortunately for New Trier girls volleyball, that something was the team’s memorable, sectional-championship playoff run.
The Benet Academy Redwings put an end to New Trier’s valiant late-season heroics, defeating the Trevians in two sets (25-19, 25-14) and moving on to the Class 4A state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 3, in Bartlett.
Although the outcome was far from what the Trevians had hoped for, New Trier ended its season on a remarkable run, claiming a sectional title for the first time since 2017 and winning 14 straight matches before the loss against Benet.
“We are walking out of here tonight with our heads held up high because we’ve practiced and played our hearts out,” New Trier head coach Hannah Hsieh said. “It was not the outcome we wanted tonight but it does not take away from the heart of these girls.”
New Trier stood toe-to-toe with the mighty Redwings for the majority of the first set. The Trevs jumped out to an early 4-2 lead over Benet thanks to kills from two of their stalwart seniors, Wake Forest commit Ana Vetter and Alison Smith, and a service ace from Lauren Cortina.
The teams continued to seemingly trade point-for-point until it appeared that the Redwings were poised to pull away from the Trevs after reeling off three straight points when the set was knotted up at 15 a piece.
But New Trier refused to give in, answering Benet’s run with a three-point swing of its own that was fueled by two Redwings’ errors. But Benet quickly put an end to the Trevians’ rally after that, scoring six consecutive points and seven of the next eight to claim the set.
New Trier’s Kit Kat McGregor had three kills for the Trevs in the set while Vetter and fellow senior Lily Long each had two.
Benet began the second set much like it ended the first, jumping out to a quick 11-3 lead over the Trevians. New Trier battled its way back to within striking distance a few times but the Redwings dispelled each Trevs’ comeback attempt, never letting them narrow the margin to less than six points.
“They’re sizable and they played great defense tonight,” Hsieh said of the Redwings. “I thought we did some good things but I think they executed really well tonight and capitalized even when they were out of their system. … They are a really solid team.”
Junior Gabby Stasys led the way for Benet, delivering eight kills and four blocks on the evening. Stasys was key to Benet’s success in the first set but the junior middle hitter elevated her play to another level in the second set. Stasys’ play at the net prevented the Trevains from building any momentum as she blocked multiple New Trier hits and delivered two crucial kills early in the set that held them at bay.
The victory sends Benet back to state once again. The Redwings placed second in IHSA Class 4A in 2022 and have six more state trophies, including four championships, since 2011.
New Trier earned its way to the supersectional matchup with a thrilling, come-from-behind win over Central Suburban league South rival Glenbrook South on Nov. 1. The Trevs erased a seven-point third-set deficit to capture the sectional championship over the Titans, earning a victory that was emblematic of the resilience showcased by the team all season.
“I’m so proud of the girls because they are just such a really bonded team that worked throughout the whole season,” Hsieh said. “They believed in themselves and each other and what I love is that they are always fighting. In the tough games, the big wins and the big losses, they’re still there for each other. I’m just so proud of this team.”
The Trevs will graduate a talented group of seniors that included Vetter, Smith, Alex Belak, Jenny Perkings, Julia Son and Meghan Souers. Hsieh described the team’s seniors as a group “that showed leadership in bringing the team together” and “was the real deal in terms of how hard they worked for the whole team.”
And while the Trevs will lose some of their top talent from this season, they will also return several key contributors. Juniors Cortina, Long, McGregor, Elizabeth Hal, Tessa Geraghty, Emma McHatten, Rachel Kelly and Sonja Keneally are all slated to return next season. New Trier is also expected to bring back sophomores Katie Wood and Calia Cremascoli.
“This is great that we had a lot of playoff experience from this season to capitalize on for next year,” Hsieh said.
Martin Carlino is a co-founder and the senior editor who assigns and edits The Record stories, while also bylining articles every week. Martin is an experienced and award-winning education reporter who was the editor of The Northbrook Tower.