GRIFFITH | With the host team valiantly refusing to fall easily, Andrean capped its regional sweep of Griffith with a college score.
Perhaps it was fitting the game went to 30 instead of 25 because it was a reminder for first-year 59ers coach Julie Wiejak, an NCAA Division I assistant for the last 11 years, of how far she and her team have progressed.
Tuesday night's 25-23, 25-18, 30-28 Class 3A regional victory, Andrean's first since 1998, was only a faint possibility when Wiejak was hired in March. She knew the 59ers had potential when many of them stalked her on her first visit to the school.
"From the moment I met them, they were like, ‘Please, lead us, drive us,'" Wiejak said. "They had goals, and those goals have driven everything we've done this year."
The ambitious list ends with a state title, and the next stop on that drive is Saturday's Class 3A Plymouth semistate, where Andrean (31-5) plays South Bend St. Joseph's (25-10) at 10 a.m. region time in the first of two semifinals.
"It's absolutely surreal," Andrean senior Shelby Stickler said. "The thought of (going to semistate) has seemed like a dream from freshman year. Now it's a reality."
Stickler was swatting the ball around the gym Tuesday with a rage, amassing 19 kills to go with 13 digs to lead all players. She exploded with an angry face after each spike and put down the game-winners in both the first and second sets.
Andrean was down 23-22 in the first game, but once the 59ers tied it, Stickler had the final two kills, even though 6-foot-tall Griffith all-around star Kelsey Bonewits was lurking.
"Obviously Bonewits is a huge block who takes up a big portion of the court at all times," Stickler said. "You have to hit it anywhere she's not."
Andrean's Taylor Mullen had 15 kills and nine digs, and Ana Nicksic had 15 assists in a match that almost always favored Andrean but never seemed like a runaway.
Griffith fought hard, and Andrean slacked in the third game. Then Wiejak wiped the smirks off several faces with a rowdy timeout speech.
"Sometimes they need to be reminded that they belong here," Wiejak said. "They need swag. They have to walk around with confidence."
Andrean was serving for the win numerous times before two consecutive costly Griffith mistakes ended the season for the Panthers (21-10), who were swept twice by Andrean in the regular season.
"(Wiejak) is awesome," said Stickler, one of 10 Andrean seniors. "She really is confident and teaches us to be confident. She's so knowledgeable and positive, and if she yells at us it's because she knows we can do better."
Griffith coach Cathy Dilbeck was happy with her team's gritty match, Bonewits' final go-round with the Panthers.
"There was no question about our effort," Dilbeck said. "The girls did a great job playing every point like it was the last one of the game."
Bonewits was 43-for-46 hitting with 14 kills, five digs and five blocks. Lisette Roldan added 12 kills.
"(Bonewits) has set the bar for this program," Dilbeck said. "She is amazing, the best all-around player I've ever coached."