The best testament to the extraordinary volleyball skills of Prospect senior Grant Andler this season came from opposing coaches.
They made it very clear that Andler was the one guy they had to game-plan around.
Throughout the year, these were some of the post-match comments that were overheard about the 6-foot-6 right side hitter.
• "He was by far the best player on the court."
• "We tried to neutralize him but he is just too good."
• "On every point we had to keep an eye on where Andler was, he's the one guy we didn't want to let beat us."
• "We tried to keep him under control but we couldn't -- he basically dominated us."
No wonder the soft-spoken hitter was named the Mid-Suburban League East co-player of the year, in addition to being named captain of the Daily Herald's Northwest all-area team.
"Grant has shown tremendous growth over the past four years," said Prospect coach Mike Riedy of Andler, who will continue his career next season at Rivier College in Nashua, NH.
"Over three years as a varsity starter, he has gone from being only a hitter to playing a great all-around game -- hitting, passing and serving. This year he led the team in aces and kills, and he ended up being one of the best players we have ever had."
Indeed, Andler's stastistics are formidable. He hit 337 kills this season and finished with 793 over his stint with the Knights, in addition to serving an outstanding 53 aces this year.
But it's not only the stats that make Andler special, it's also his leadership.
"One of my goals was to leave the program in good shape for the younger kids," said Andler. "I wanted to impress upon them how much hard work and persistence pays off. Volleyball is a very intense sport, and it's more than just a game."
Andler, who had the ability to take over a match at any time, starting playing volleyball in earnest in sixth grade at Saint Raymond's grade school. He played other sports such as soccer and basketball, but quickly decided that his prep years should be devoted to volleyball.
It was onward and upward from the beginning of his frosh season to his position as this year's captain.
"At the beginning of every season," said Riedy, "I give the guys a t-shirt with a simple phrase on it. This year's phase was 'Count on Me,' and I think of all our players Grant really took that phrase to heart. Even though he was our go-to guy, he would think of the team before himself."
"Coach Riedy had a different style," said Andler. "He made us mentally tough, and that was very important, especially when you'd get down in intense matches by 2 or 3 points. That's when his training really paid off for us.
"He stressed that we should always look forward to the next point, and don't look back or get down about what happened previously."
Andler has tons of great memories of his time at Prospect, but says his best-ever moment was this season's thrilling come-from-behind, 3-game victory over Notre Dame in regionals.
So how did this Midwestern kid decide on attending college in New Hampshire, especially considering his initial visit to Rivier was his first-ever trip out East?
"I just fell in love with the place," said Andler, whose sister is in the area attending grad school. "The program, the coaches, the location, everything seemed like a perfect fit."
The senior will be majoring in social studies at Rivier with the goal of becoming a high school teacher, with the encouragement of another sister who is an instructor at Lake Park -- and coincidentally, the Lancers volleyball squad reached the state final four this year.
"My sister got me into the whole history thing," said Andler. "It's actually weird to think that I've already graduated from high school. The four years just flew by.
"If I had to say one thing to a freshman coming into the (Prospect) volleyball program, it would be 'settle for nothing,' " added Andler. "What I mean by that is, decide what your goals are going to be, and work as hard as you can to achieve those goals."