MERRILLVILLE | Julie Wiejak had a simple instruction for senior setter Grace Cooper as volleyball season began:
Find your go-to player.
Andrean had new players at almost every position, including Cooper, who set on JV last season as backup to Ana Niksic, the 2011 Times Player of the Year. Wiejak knew that for Andrean to overcome its inexperience, Cooper would need to know who she could count on to score in a pinch.
"Ana had Taylor (Mullen) and I said 'Coop, you've got to find your girl,'" Wiejak said. "At our first tournament, I said, 'You have to know when to sprinkle your offense around and get some things established and when to go to your go-to.'"
Cooper didn't take long to look and she picked junior outside hitter Kellie Wojciechowski.
"Kellie has a really hard hit; she's able to slam the ball and she's the one I can relay to, even if the set is off," Cooper said. "She's able to see her shots well."
Both are intensely defensive players. Wojciechowski is on pace to finish with more than 300 kills and 500 digs. Cooper is an all-around athlete who has earned respect from her teammates for her back-row play.
"They've really come into some great chemistry together," Wiejak said. "It's Cooper's relentless hustle to the ball and Kellie's clutch delivery in certain situations that makes our team survive in some situations."
In a Northwest Crossroads Conference match against Hobart on Thursday, Wojciechowski had three quick kills early in a decisive game four to help beat the Brickies.
Both were recently selected for volleyball's first Indiana Elite North vs. South All-Star Challenge.
Cooper and Wojciechowski played on the 2011 Andrean junior varsity team that finished 25-4 while the varsity reached the Class 3A semistate.
This year's team, which was waiting in the wings and watching closely, has goals for an even deeper run into the postseason.
"Obviously it's hard to fill the shoes (of 10 seniors), but we had confidence in our JV team," Cooper said. "Obviously we want to go as far as them, maybe even further."
"Playing together for three years straight on the JV, this whole team we're used to each other," Wojciechowski said. "I know that a lot of seniors graduated, and we have to amp it up, but we're not pressured. I'm confident with what we have."