MERRILLVILLE | For the last couple seasons, Andrean setter Ana Nicksic had been a convert of sorts into an outside hitter.
She gained the skills of a blocker and a kill machine.
Now that she's returned completely setting, she has five weapons on the Times No. 4 59ers volleyball team to set to, yet she still finds her way up and over the net for blocks and kills to give her team a boost.
Tuesday against No. 7 Lowell, Nicksic added a pair of kills, a key block in the third set, nine digs and 30 assists in a 27-25, 25-15, 25-22 win in Northwest Crossroads Conference action.
"Being a good setter means you have to know all of the positions and where everyone is going to be," Nicksic said. "I know how each person likes to hit the ball and how they're each going to react. It's also nice to be able to jump up and make the block when we need that, too."
"People used to pick setters based on their feet and their hands, but I like a setter that has more than that," Andrean coach Julie Wiejak said. "Ana has what it takes upstairs to be a great setter. Could she play right side or outside? Sure, but she has a brilliant mind to keep five hitters -- five great hitters -- going."
With the win, Andrean (24-5, 9-1) maintained its clutch on the conference title lead. Andrean has two more conference games, as does second-place Munster, while Lowell (18-10, 8-3) plays one more conference team.
The 59ers lost a first-game lead late, before rallying behind kills from outside hitter Shelby Stickler, who finished with a game-high 14. In the second game, Andrean took advantage of several unforced errors from the Red Devils to build a lead as big as 12 points.
"This has been an issue for us all season long and we keep struggling with the mental game," Lowell coach Kim Kilmer said. "We're a bunch of mental head cases. We've got the skills, but we end up beating ourselves."
Lowell, behind 13 kills from Anna Sacco and 11 from Jessica Sharkey, led in the decisive third game, but let those mental mistakes take over, Kilmer said. The final point of the match was scored when a set ball fell to the court without a Red Devil claiming the hit.
"We're the only (NCC team) left with a chance for the outright title, but I still felt like they had more to play for," Wiejak said. "We needed to be at a level we haven't reached yet. We needed all of those diving, sprawling hits and we got them. Once we got going late in that second game, it was like we were a train barreling through."