It felt like 100-plus degrees in the Wheeling gymnasium Monday night.
"It was hot," said St. Viator senior outside hitter Megan Mueller. "It's hot in our Cahill Gymnasium, too, so we're kind of used to it. But this definitely was hotter. We just tried to keep our energy up."
Mueller and fellow outside hitter Mary Cleary sure energized the Lions' attack, each heating up for a season-high 9 kills in a 25-15, 25-20 nonconference girls volleyball victory over the host Wildcats.
Mueller and Cleary took their cues from classmate Molly Ziegler, who collected 20 assists as the Lions (4-3) went above .500 for the second time this season.
After two varsity seasons playing the middle, Cleary has moved outside this season and the 6-foot-2 senior is enjoying it.
"It's lots of fun," said Cleary, whose first kill gave the Lions a 3-0 lead in Game 1. "There's lots more sets and lots more action. I've just got to keep working and trying to get better as the season goes on. It's more of a leadership role."
As tri-captains, Cleary, Mueller and Ziegler are the Lions' leaders this fall.
"All three played well," said Lions veteran coach Charlie Curtin. "Overall, everyone on the team did a good job. We just need to improve our serving. We'll work on that (today) in practice."
Cleary's serve worked real well late in Game 1 when she reeled off 5 straight points, including 3 aces, to give St. Viator a 24-14 lead.
"Mary is a good all-around player who works hard, like all our players," added Curtin, who also received 2 kills apiece from Jenny Brandt, Grace Fedus and Kristen Abrahamson along with 5 assists from Kaitlin O'Brien.
A tip by junior Kristen Bogacz held off game point before the Lions won on Mueller's kill off a 20-foot set from Ziegler.
Three straight aces by Mueller (10-of-11 serving with 5 aces) got the Lions off to a 3-0 lead in Game 2 and they never looked back.
Cleary put a kill off a block for an 8-3 lead, but junior Deanna Kuzmanic gave the Wildcats a spark when she blocked Cleary for a kill.
"We just have to work on our energy," said Kuzmanic, also one of the top basketball guards in the area. "We have to bring it mentally to every game. We didn't completely show up this match."
Senior Elizabeth Smith led Wheeling (1-7) with 3 kills while junior Lani Greenberg and freshman Timber Terrell each had 2. Sabrina Semeria (5 assist) and Kuzmanic (1 assist) set the attack.
Trailing by as much as 22-12 in Game 2, the Wildcats made a nice run at the end. Kuzmanic served 4 straight points to get Wheeling to within 22-17 and a block by Greenberg later closed the deficit to 23-19 before Viator closed it out.
"These girls will never give up," said Wheeling coach Jason Kopkowski. "That's never a concern. Their skills just aren't where they should be at this point and time.
"But I give them a lot of credit. They know they are not always at the level of our opponents but that is not a deterrent for them. This is a process."