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Sophomore Emily Lachmann is one of six sopho­mores on the 2017 Hillsdale vol­leyball roster. (Photo: Rachael Reynolds / Hillsdale Col­legian)

The Hillsdale College women’s vol­leyball team is preparing for its first season as members of the Great Midwest Ath­letic Con­ference.

Last season, the Chargers went 16 – 12 overall. Six of the team’s seven starters are returning to the team, along with the addition of five promising freshmen. In a recent pre­season coaches poll, the team was ranked third in the G-MAC’s western division.

Junior right side hitter Paige Van­derWall said that the new con­ference offers the Chargers an oppor­tunity to establish them­selves with a new set of teams and also vye against familiar com­petitors.

“While we will see new oppo­nents, some of the teams from our old con­ference, like Lake Erie and Findlay, are moving with us,” she said. “It’ll be nice to keep our rivalry with Findlay and play dif­ferent teams, as well.”

Head coach Chris Gravel explained the biggest chal­lenge that comes with the tran­sition to the G-MAC will be more time on the road.

“The con­ference will not be a big change for us,” he said. “We will, however, spend a little more time on the bus.”

Van­derWall agreed that the demanding schedule will be a serious hurdle the Chargers will need to overcome.

“Our team has talked a ton about playing each match hard, because the season does get long and each one of those matches is an important step to where we’d like to end up at the end of the season,” she said. “We also have a lot of weekends of back-to-back trav­eling, which is tough, both phys­i­cally and men­tally. So being able to be each other’s support systems and keep each other focused on our goals will be important for all of us.”

Gravel said every part of the team’s pre­season prepa­ration is aimed at building the kind of habits and skills which will translate to enduring success throughout the season.

“We know we can play at a very high level. Playing at that level often is always a chal­lenge,” Gravel said. “Since our last match of last season, the team has made it their mission to improve the way they rep­resent the college through its program. The stakes are high, the expec­ta­tions are high, and prepa­ration is a con­stant reality.”

Freshman libero Madelyn Schider said the team is con­cen­trating on preparing for the season in two spe­cific areas — focus and com­mu­ni­cation.

“One chal­lenge has been focus, so our coach has made sure to incor­porate many drills to keep us alert, which has helped sub­stan­tially,” she said. “In addition, every team faces some com­mu­ni­cation problems at the start of a season, but through mental and physical training we have already made progress to under­stand each other.”

Schider said one of the reasons she chose to play for Hillsdale is the close-knit team com­munity. Van­derWall said this family-like atmos­phere is really moti­vating the team to get a strong start and combat those early chal­lenges with com­mu­ni­cation.

“During this pre­season, I’ve felt, even more than my past two years, a strong familial bond amongst the team that I think we all really buy into,” Van­derWall said. “I think that will really be a strength going into regular season, because we play as a family and play for each other which is really special.”

The Chargers open their season with tilts against Michigan Tech Uni­versity, Indi­anapolis Uni­versity, Glenville State College, and Saginaw Valley Uni­versity at Dawn Tib­betts Arena this weekend.

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Michael Lucchese
Michael Lucchese ‘18 is majoring in American Studies, and is a member of the Dow Journalism Program. In addition to the Collegian, he has also contributed to The Federalist, Acculturated, Conservative Review, and several other publications. In 2015, he reported on national security and foreign policy for Breitbart News. He also hosts a weekly radio show, The Michael Lucchese Show on Radio Free Hillsdale WRFH 101.7 FM. e-mail: mlucchese@hillsdale.edu Twitter: @MichaelLucchese