Maddie Saad exhibits a calmness under pressure.
Saad, Naperville North’s senior libero, complements it with a high intensity on the volleyball court.
“We’re just really happy to have her. She’s come so far since her junior year ” Huskies coach Jennifer Urban said following the Huskies’ 25-22, 25-20 victory over Benet to capture the Scholastic Cup Gold Bracket title on Saturday in aurora. “She’s a real leader for us.”
Especially in the second set, it was Saad’s savviness on the service line that helped the Huskies pull away from a 12-12 stalemate.
Benet, who had only lost one match on the season to that point — to St. Charles East on Sept. 7 — was able to stave off Naperville North at match point for a stretch, to 24-20.
But that small rally from a combination of Ava Novak, Lynney Tarnow and Christine Pullen wasn’t enough to save the Redwings from losing their monthlong winning streak.
“Maddie, she’s our rock star,” Urban said. “She’s our first server of the match. She goes in (and) she’s our top server in aces and service points, so we depend on her rotations each and every match.”
“Usually, when I go behind the line, I try to have a really positive mindset,” Saad said, who had three aces. “I don’t try to think ‘Oh, what happens if I’m going to miss the serve?’ I try to have a positive mindset.”
The Huskies (23-3, 6-1) have won 17 matches and have only one loss since Sept 8.
“We have a really good group of girls,” Saad said. “Everyone is good (with the) talent spread around. I’d say the best thing about our team is that everyone has a lot of fight in them; they work really, really hard. They’re really positive and kind of like a families.”
“We’ve always had really high expectations for this group,” Urban said. “They’re buying in and holding themselves more accountable and starting to hold each other more accountable. That’s a good place to be when we’re all fighting for the same cause.”
Paige Lauterwasser had 7 kills for the Huskies, while Shelby Kierra-Erickson had three.
For Benet (23-2, 3-0), Saturday’s championship loss is a speed bump in a season where it expects to play a lot more volleyball deep into the upcoming postseason.
Novak had 7 kills and an ace to pace Benet.
“Definitely today, we could just not play our game,” Novak said. “Control the passes; we couldn’t put the ball away. We’re going to have our ups and downs. This is just one of our lows, so I hope we can continue to take it and learn from it and not get too caught up in it because I know that we’re a good team. We just did not play as good as we usually do.”
St Charles East defeated Neuqua Valley 25-13, 25-19 in the gold bracket third place match.