MERRILLVILLE | Although the air conditioning guy apparently took off early for Labor Day, the roofers at Andrean worked a full shift Thursday night.
With an oppressive indoor heat causing bouts of delirium in the back rows, the host 59ers decided the game at the net. With 12 blocks as a team, Times No. 9 Andrean swept No. 10 Kankakee Valley 29-27, 28-26, 25-8 in Northwest Crossroads Conference play.
"It wasn't that we played out of our minds; it was more that we overcame adversity," Andrean senior setter Ana Nicksic said. "We really weren't vibing to begin with."
Blanketed by the intense heat and early bursts from Kankakee Valley's Hailey Ruesken and Gabrielle Martin, Andrean (8-2, 2-0) trailed 19-8 in Game 1. The 59ers eventually tied the game at 23, but their first lead of the night was at 26-25. From there they seldom trailed.
"We stayed composed and confident," first-year Andrean coach Julie Wiejak said. "The fact that they could keep it together in extreme circumstances shows that we're learning. That was huge."
Wiejak, who holds block records at Loyola, installed some new tactics for blocking, including better moves for "jousting" at the net, on Wednesday, and it didn't take long for her to see them applied.
Nicksic and Kathleen Sievert combined for a roof job with their team down 19-8 in the first game, and it spurred a 7-0 run. A 6-foot senior setter headed to Elon on scholarship, Nicksic had two solo blocks and three block assists to go with 34 set assists, three kills and seven digs.
"(Nicksic) is just a phenomenal player," Wiejak said. "She could be one of the best high school players I've ever coached. I just wish I had met her earlier, because she has a lot of God-given talent."
In addition to her net prowess, Nicksic found an array of hitters as the 59ers survived a valiant K.V. effort in Game 2, clinched by one of Taylor Mullen's match-high 18 kills. After two close games, Andrean dominated the third, highlighted by a combined block by Nicksic and Allie Boyle to make it 24-7.
"It wasn't as much what was said as what was done," Nicksic said. "We're more disciplined (this year). We care for each other a lot."
Martin and Danielle Ruesken led K.V. (5-5, 1-2) with 10 kills each. One of five sophomores for the Kougars, Lauren Stokes had 23 assists and tied Hailey Ruesken with three solo blocks.
"We're right there," K.V. coach Rick Ashmore said. "We can compete with anybody. We just need to learn how to finish games."