Benet’s swarming defense stymies Addison Trail

Benet’s offense was not particularly efficient Wednesday against visiting Addison Trail.
But, oh, that defense.
Benet put up 11 blocks and 5-foot-10 setter Tommy Kmieciak and 5-8 libero Sean Becker combined for 19 digs as the Redwings rallied from deficits of 19-17 in Game 1 and 20-18 in Game 2 to defeat the Trail Blazers 25-21, 25-21.
Benet’s defense was especially attentive to Addison Trail’s 6-foot-5 setter Jacob Grygo, who has been putting up some mind-boggling numbers this season. During one sequence late in Game 2, Benet’s defense dug two of Grygo’s dump efforts, forcing him to go wide with a third.  
“As a team, we were really surrounding him,” Becker said. “We knew he was going to go for that, especially in crunch time, so we were all focused on watching him the entire time. Our blockers were doing a great job getting up on him and not letting any solos go to the outside.
“We played really good team defense,” he added. “Everyone was locked in, and defensively we were in the mindset that we wouldn’t going to let anything drop.”
Benet’s defense compensated for its struggles on offense, Benet coach Jeff Steinberg said.
“I don’t think we were in system as much as we’d like to be,” he said. “On the other side of the net, it’s really nice to see our defense come into play. We got a lot of blocks. Our rightsides were being really disciplined with where they were setting up because that’s been an issue in the past.
“They’re (Addison Trail) a real scrappy team that puts the ball all over the court, and our guys really made an effort to make sure they were doing their job and helping to keep the ball up,” Steinberg added. “That’s how you win long rallies and put balls away.

“It’s not always offense. It shows that defense is important, too.”
Addison Trail (20-9) overcame 10-5 deficits in both games to take late leads. But three hitting errors toward the end of the first set allowed Benet (22-10) to close on an 8-2 run, and 6-2 freshman Auggie Mazza and 6-5 middle blocker Connor Simchak combined on a pair of blocks to spark a 7-1 run to end the second.
“It seemed like once they got the ball back in the 20s, we just couldn’t get the pass or we shot ourselves in the foot with unforced errors,” Addison Trail coach Chad Grant said. “They’re a good team, though. It was a dogfight.
“We just have to get better with the block,” he added. “Their blocking was the biggest difference in the game. They put a lot of balls on the floor and we didn’t. Our kids are fighters. We played really hard. We just came up a bit short.”
Six-foot-3 rightside hitter Jack Andringa led Benet with 6 kills and a block, John Folts had 5 kills, 2 blocks and 3 digs, Simchak added 4 kills and 3 blocks, and Mazza contributed 2 kills and 4 blocks.
Six-foot outside David Zielinski and 6-2 junior outside hitter Justin Werderitch each had 7 kills for Addison Trail. Grygo finished with 15 assists, 4 kills, 2 blocks and 7 digs. Bryan Florian (8 digs) and Christopher Garcia (7 digs) anchored the Blazers’ back row.
“You have to give their block credit,” Grant said. “We’re a smaller team so we have to use the block to our advantage. We just have to do a better job of finding seams and finding edges.”
Addison Trail did get a bit of good news Wednesday when the Blazers learned that 6-3 outside hitter/middle blocker Michael Pudlo would be returning to practice Thursday after breaking and dislocating his left pinky finger during the first week of April.
“He’s a difference-maker,” Grant said.

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