The Hillsdale College women’s vol­leyball team exploded into the 2017 season last weekend, going unde­feated in its home-opening tour­nament at the Dawn Tib­betts Potter Arena.

The Chargers lost two sets in their opening match against Michigan Tech on Thursday, but they quickly rallied and won the match. For the remainder of the weekend, they dis­patched foe after foe without losing a single set to Indi­anapolis, Saginaw Valley, or Glenville State.

“This weekend shows we have depth,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “Everyone on the bench is a pos­sible con­tributor on game day.”

Junior outside hitter Kara Vyletel was one of the biggest con­trib­utors to the team’s vic­tories this weekend. She was awarded tour­nament MVP for her 50 total kills and .262 hitting per­centage.

Vyletel echoed Gravel’s praise for the team’s strong overall per­for­mance this weekend, noting espe­cially the cohesion of the newest players on the team.

“The freshmen have been amazing,” she said. “I am so excited they are here and can’t wait to see what else they bring to the team. Each of them brings some­thing unique, and I see so much potential in all of them.”

Sophomore libero Taylor Wiese was named libero of the tour­nament, with 77 digs over the weekend. She also praised the freshmen on the team, par­tic­u­larly the self­lessness and resilience they have dis­played early in the season.

“I think that all the freshmen are good addi­tions to the team, and they all fit in really well,” she said. “We tried a lot of new things this weekend and they all did great and are super fun to play next to.”

Freshman middle hitter Alyssa Van Wienen made an impressive debut for Hillsdale with 36 kills throughout the tour­nament. Her .392 hitting per­centage cur­rently leads the Great Midwest Ath­letic Con­ference, a feat which helped her earn G-MAC Player of the Week.

“Being G-MAC Player of the Week is very hum­bling,” Van Wienen said. “Vol­leyball is a team sport, through and through, and it reflects so well on my team to be chosen for this award. I would not have been able to play as well as I did without the sets I was given from my setter, or the passes my setter was given.”

Van Wienen said she chose to play for Hillsdale College because of the team’s close-knit rela­tion­ships and devotion to ath­letic excel­lence — both of which she said paid div­i­dends at this weekend’s tour­nament.

“All of us are ded­i­cated to making the person next to us the best version of them­selves that they can be,” she said. “The freshmen are trying to ask the question, ‘How can I help make my team­mates better?’ as much as everyone else on the team has.”

Van Wienen com­mented that the team’s goal this season is simply to win as many matches as pos­sible, and that each match and each practice is an oppor­tunity to improve on the last one.

“Each time we step on the court, we are getting better,” she said. “Basi­cally we’ve adopted this mindset where if we are not getting better, we are getting worse… Between the players, it’s truly a family, one that accepts and embraces people for who they are.”

Ulti­mately, Van Wienen credited her team for pushing her to do her absolute best during this tour­nament and setting her up for success both on and off the court.

“G-MAC Player of the Week is as much an award for me as it is for the rest of my team and coaches,” she said. “I would never have come near to receiving it had it not been for all of them.”

Other players with strong per­for­mances included junior right side hitter Paige Van­derWall, who had a .250 hitting per­centage, and sopho­mores Dani Jones and Veronica O’Connor, who set career highs for kills in a single match — seven and five respec­tively, against Glenville State. Another sophomore, outside hitter Emily Lachmann, served four aces and tallied 14 kills over the course of the tour­nament.

“Our team chem­istry is so strong right now. We all get along well, show our passion, and play for each other. We have a strong group of girls,” Vyletel said. “Right now we’re still working out some kinks, but once we con­tinue to strengthen our con­nec­tions with each other and get more com­fortable running more complex plays, the season will only get better.”

This weekend, the Chargers will play four matches in Erie, Penn­syl­vania against St. Michael’s and Gannon on Friday, and Glenville State and Mer­cy­hurst on Sat­urday.

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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: Twitter: @MichaelLucchese