Nick VanderZanden will leave some big shoes to fill at Andrew when his season is up, and that’s not just because he sports a size 15.
From the start of his career until now, the 6-foot-9 VanderZanden is one of the Southland’s most improved players, which isn’t lost on some of Andrew’s fellow middle hitters.
“He’s 6-9, he’s tall and he’s going to play at Lewis,” senior Adam Russell said. “I’m always trying to follow in his footsteps and play as well as he does.”
The 6-4 Russell did a pretty good imitation Monday night against Stagg. Russell recorded five kills and four blocks as Andrew celebrated senior night with a 25-18, 25-17 SouthWest Suburban victory.
VanderZanden finished with three kills and two blocks, Neal Hausmann added three blocks and eight assists, and Sanil Thomas had seven assists and four digs in limited action for Andrew (16-16, 6-4).
“Last year we faced Stagg on Senior Night and we lost, so we came out trying to make amends for that,” said VanderZanden, who had a large contingent of friends and family in attendance.
Mike Neputy recorded four kills, Trevor Crain had three kills and 11 digs and Kamil Kryzsiak three kills for Stagg (12-19, 2-8), which struggled with Andrew’s defense at the net.
“We shouldn’t have been running it to the middle when No. 18 (VanderZanden) was there,” Stagg coach Lauren Royer said. “He was pretty good at shutting down our guys.”
The Chargers took a 15-11 lead in Set 1 after a kill from Neputy, but VanderZanden answered with a stuff block, sparking a 10-2 surge that included a pair of blocks from Russell and two straight aces from Thomas.
“Playing against rival Stagg and competing on Senior Night, I just put my best effort out there,” Russell said. “I think it was the emotion of the game. I pushed myself hard.”
Andrew and Stagg have one more SouthWest Suburban contest before heading into postseason play. Andrew will look to avenge two defeats to Oak Forest on May 27. Stagg opens the playoffs with Chicago Ag. Science the day prior.