After an undefeated weekend in the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena, the Chargers secured another win on Tuesday when they swept the Northwood University Timberwolves. The trio of wins elevates Hillsdale to 10 – 2 overall, and 4 – 1 in conference play.
In the key North-Division matchup, the Chargers rallied after falling behind in set one and three to defeat the Timberwolves in straight sets on Tuesday evening.
“When I think of Tuesday’s match against Northwood, one word comes to mind: grit,” sophomore setter Taylor Bennett said.
The Chargers edged to a 25 – 22 win in set one, after slipping to a five-point deficit early in the game. Senior middle hitter Erin Holsinger came in clutch for the Chargers when she tied the game at 13 with a kill, then gave her team its first lead by pounding two more. Junior outside hitter Jackie Langer led the offense with seven kills in the first set.
In set two, the Chargers were dominant. Langer and Holsinger partnered at the net to give Hillsdale a 9 – 4 lead. The Chargers extended their lead all the way to 15 – 6 after service aces by freshman Emily Lachmann and sophomore outside hitter Kara Vyletel, and a couple Northwood errors. The Chargers powered to a 25 – 16 win.
The Chargers rallied again in set three, battling back from a 16 – 9 deficit to defeat the Timberwolves. Hillsdale tied the game at 20 then took control, capping the match with a five-point run.
“We’ve been working a lot on points after 20 and pressure situations in practice, so I think that definitely helped us come back in those situations,” senior outside hitter Sam Siddall said.
Sophomore right side hitter Paige VanderWall led the Hillsdale offense with 12 kills against the Timberwolves, while Langer added 11. Though the match only lasted for three sets, five Chargers recorded more than five kills each. Bennett said the increased level of trust between players has made the Chargers a better squad.
“The versatility of our offense is continually growing,” Bennett said. “The success of the offense essentially depends upon trust. As our trust within the team has grown, we’ve been able to advance to more complex sets and mix in some new plays.”
The Chargers tallied seven service aces in Tuesday night’s sweep. Siddall identified serving as a team strength that powered the Chargers through the weekend, as well.
“We served really tough which put us in a good position defensively,” Siddall said.
Hillsdale flaunted a balanced offensive effort this weekend, though head coach Chris Gravel said the improvement stems back to practice.
“The practices have achieved a higher level because the people who aren’t playing on game day are getting better and working hard,” Gravel said. “We got better throughout the weekend, and I think that’s probably the biggest reason why we’ve been improving.”
Hillsdale opened homecoming weekend with a solid 3 – 1 victory over Ohio Dominican University on Friday night. The Chargers came out tough, powering to 25 – 17 and 25 – 21 wins in sets one and two. Then, ODU tuned up its defense, grabbing set three with a 25 – 20 win.
Ohio Dominican has forced Hillsdale into five-set matches in the past, so Gravel said he felt a sense of “deja-vu” after set three.
“They adjust their defense well and always seem to make us work extra hard for us to close them out. This was no exception,” Gravel said.
The Chargers buckled down in set four, however, edging to a 25 – 17 win to wrap up Friday’s match. According to Gravel, Friday’s victory marked the team’s improvement.
“That was a match that could have gone very differently earlier in the season,” Gravel said.
Sophomore outside hitter Kara Vyletel had an impressive showing, racking up another double-double with 14 kills and 13 digs for the Chargers. Langer added 12 kills.
The Chargers carried their momentum into Saturday afternoon’s matchup against the Lake Erie Storm. In straight sets, Hillsdale swept Lake Erie with an impressive offensive showing. One of the GLIAC’s most-improved teams, the Storm challenged the Chargers with tight matches. In the end, however, the Chargers won by just four to five-point margins in each set.
Three Chargers tallied between nine and 11 kills in the sweep. Vyletel led the offense again on Saturday with 11 kills, while Holsinger dominated in the middle with nine kills and two solo blocks.
“We were just more consistent than them,” Gravel said. “It was good to get some consistency down, we’re still a work in progress, but it was important coming into this week.”
The Chargers have switched gears, preparing to play their first road games in two weeks. The team will travel to Malone University on Friday night, and Walsh University on Saturday afternoon.
Though Hillsdale swept Malone on Sept. 10, Siddall said her team must “show up and outwork them.” According to Gravel, Malone and Walsh will use their home-court advantages to get ahead.
“Both these teams can be Jekyll and Hyde,” Gravel said. “They can have some pretty poor away showings, but they seem to always be good at home. We’re just lucky enough to go to their places this year, and I expect a battle.”