MERRILLVILLE | When Julie Wiejak first took the girls volleyball coaching gig at Andrean, she was told she'd have 10 seniors on her first team.
She almost couldn't believe it. Ten? Ten seniors have survived three coaches?
She told friends of her predicament, and many said: "Obviously, you'll have to make cuts."
"If all 10 of those girls made it through three coaches and all the adversity that all of them went through, I think they all deserve to be here," Wiejak said. "The way my personality is and the way I coach, there was no question that I was going to keep all 10 of them, and then I'd figure it out."
The new plan was to increase the roster and add five underclassmen, filling out the missing positions — in 10 players, there were no middle hitters and four who played on the outside. What it created was a team that won its first regional title since 1998.
"We were good last year, too, but this year we just got that click," outside hitter Taylor Mullen said.
"We needed (Wiejak) to push us this far," Melissa Egert said.
Andrean is slated to play South Bend St. Joseph's at 10 a.m. Saturday in one Class 3A semifinal at Plymouth. Should the team win the semistate title, it would be the first in school history.
Keeping the 10 of them together — when they started with nearly 20 — was an easier task than outsiders seem to think, the players say. Though they've played with three coaches and under three different systems, they didn't consider leaving.
"It wasn't about the coaches," back-row player Jocelyn Jayjack said, "it was about the team, and we all play for each other."
"No matter what was thrown at us, no matter what happened, we can look at each other at all times throughout these four years, and because we love volleyball and because we love each other, that's what got us through it," defensive specialist Samantha Long said.
When this season started, Wiejak challenged her team to dream big. Wherever the players' goals landed, she would coach them to get to that point. They set up a five-point plan to win conference, sectional, regional, semistate and a state championship. To achieve the plan, they've accepted their roles, how each one fits into a team that can hold six on a court at a time.
"All 15 of them, the entire roster, all feel valuable, they all know they have something to add, and they're all part of us being 31-5," Wiejak said. "All of them has had a shining moment that has contributed to that success. Some have had more than others, but all have done something where they felt like, 'Wow, look at me go.'"
After making school history with the fifth regional title in school history — and third in the multiclass era — the class of 2012 is hoping to leave a different legacy.
"It's a legacy of sisterhood," Nicksic said.
"Even during our senior night, the freshman said that they feel such a part of our sisterhood," Egert said. "I feel like leaving that for the next classes is our legacy, that they can continue the sisterhood that we started."