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The Hillsdale College vol­leyball team re-ener­gized its game in the Dawn Tib­betts Potter Arena as the Chargers won their first two home matches of the season this weekend. On Friday, the Chargers defeated the Northern Michigan Wildcats 3 – 1 then capped off their perfect weekend with a 3 – 0 victory over the Michigan Tech Huskies on Sat­urday. The winning weekend ele­vates the Chargers to a 6 – 1 GLIAC record and a 12 – 2 record overall.
After four con­sec­utive weeks on the road, the Chargers were more than happy to be wel­comed home.
“There’s a comfort level at home that you don’t get any­where else,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “We have so many upper­classmen so it was nearly a seamless tran­sition.”
Senior middle hitter Emily Wolfert said that the team’s energy was at a new high as the Chargers took the court on Friday.
“We had a lot of good energy which def­i­nitely helped us,” Wolfert said. “We maybe let it get the best of us when we dropped a set, but I think we came out with a lot of good energy and I per­sonally love that because it keeps me focused and gets me fired up. I think a lot of people were feeling that.”
The Chargers’ wide­spread enthu­siasm was reflected by the number of players who suc­ceeded offen­sively on Friday night. Four Chargers recorded at least nine kills against the Wildcats. Wolfert and fellow middle hitter junior Erin Holsinger each smashed 10 kills while freshman outside hitters Paige Van­derWall and Kara Vyletel each had nine kills. Wolfert also slammed seven blocks.
“I thought our middle play was out­standing,” Gravel said. “Both Emily and Erin have really been applying what we’ve been working on in practice, and it really showed this weekend. That’s some­thing we’re looking forward to con­tinuing and improving upon, because no one was perfect this weekend for sure, but I thought our middle play was pretty tough.”
The Chargers grabbed a 25 – 18 win over the Wildcats in the first set, but fell behind in both the second and third sets. Faced with a 15 – 20 deficit in set two, the Chargers embarked on a 10 – 3 run to grab the win. In set three, Hillsdale fell into a similar hole but was unable to come back and finish the match in straight sets.
Gravel said that the ten­dency to fall behind comes when his team feels too com­fortable.
“It is natural to feel com­fortable if you’ve done a lot of the work, but there’s just no room for that,” he said. “The instinct to relax a little bit has to be overcome and it’s not easy to do, it’s easy to say, but it’s not easy to do. So we con­tinue to work on that.”
On Sat­urday, the Chargers buckled down to sweep the Michigan Tech Huskies in straight sets.
“This weekend we finally were able to get a pretty good team in three sets and that was big for us,” senior co-captain setter Marissa Owen said. “I think that def­i­nitely shows big improvement in our mental game, even if we had a come-from-behind victory in the third set it showed that we were tough, and that we decided that we wanted it in three, that we weren’t going to go to four.”
Again, Hillsdale’s offense was a team effort as three Chargers spiked 10 or more kills. Van­derWall led the offensive effort with 11 kills and Holsinger and Vyletel each recorded 10.
Wolfert said her favorite part of the weekend was seeing dif­ferent team­mates step up throughout the matches as so many players wanted to hit the ball.
“It’s funny being in the front row because there’s one rotation where Haylee and I stand next to each other and Haylee turns to Marissa and says, ‘Set me the ball,’ and then I turn to Marissa and say, ‘Set me the ball,’” Wolfert said. “It’s cool because we’re all demanding the ball, and maybe that’s a little hard for the setter, but I also think it makes her job easier.”
Owen said she loves feeling like her hitters want to put the ball down every play.
“We talk about having to make the play versus wanting to make the play,” Owen said. “We want to make that dif­ference really clear in our heads. It’s such a big dif­ference in your phys­i­ology too. It’s cool to know that your hitters are there men­tally and want that.”
This weekend the Chargers will stay home again to host Wayne State (3 – 4) on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saginaw Valley (5 – 2) on Sat­urday at 12 p.m. Saginaw Valley was ranked 25th in the most recent National Vol­leyball Coaches Asso­ci­ation poll.
“They’re both sup­posed to be good this year,” Owen said. “They’re always pretty con­sistent with their talent. Saginaw is a tall team, and Wayne State is very pow­erful with a lot of big girls who can hit the ball hard.”
Gravel said he saw improve­ments from Tuesday to Friday after the team’s first dropped matched against Findlay. He said he wants those improve­ments to con­tinue growing this week.
“A big focus after Findlay was serve and pass, that sounds the most basic but it really is going to be an area of focus,” Gravel said. “We’ll try to evolve into a couple other things offen­sively, but the primary focus is going to be the serve and pass.”
Wolfert said she is excited to prepare for and play these chal­lenging matches.
“They’re going to put up a really good fight for us, as they have in the past. We’re not expecting any­thing less,” she said. “But we’re excited because we love really good games like that. We like those tough com­pet­itive matches that really test our limits.”