While traveling to the southern reaches of the G-MAC, Hillsdale College volleyball swept two matches last weekend. The Chargers improved their overall record to 10-3, and their conference record now sits at 3-2.
The southern campaign began with a 3-0 victory over Kentucky Wesleyan College in Owensboro. Hillsdale’s defense limited Kentucky Wesleyan’s hitting percentage to .092, due in large part to sophomore libero Taylor Wiese’s 14 digs. Junior outside hitter Kara Vyletel led the Chargers’ offense with 15 kills and 12 digs through the match, finishing with a .406 hitting percentage.
“The teams we faced gave us great opportunities to work on some new things,” Vyletel said. “Although we swept, we’re still looking to focus in on our matches and stay concentrated on the task at hand throughout the entirety of our play.”
Junior rightside hitter Paige VanderWall also performed well against the Kentucky Wesleyan Panthers, tallying 12 kills and 7 digs for a .478 hitting percentage.
On Monday, VanderWall was named G-MAC West Division Player of the Week — the first time she’s been awarded this honor during her college career.
VanderWall is ranked number five for hitting percentage in the G-MAC, with a .318. She is also ranked ninth in the conference for number of kills, averaging about three kills per set. On the team, VanderWall also leads the team’s defense, consistently setting career highs for digs through sets this season.
“It’s definitely a team honor, because we got the sweep both times this weekend,” VanderWall said. “We clicked well to get the job done. A lot of people did a lot of great things.”
Head coach Chris Gravel described VanderWall’s award as “well-deserved” and praised the way the team improved to get on its three-match winning streak.
The Chargers kept up their winning streak on the second leg of their trip in a 3-0 sweep against the Trevecca Nazarene Trojans in Nashville, Tennessee.
“We really improved our serving and passing in those matches,” Gravel said.
Overall, the Chargers lead the G-MAC for average service aces per set — 1.9 — and for highest hitting percentage — .258. In the match against the Trojans, Vyletel aced three serves and scored nine kills. Wiese scored two service aces and helped the back line with 12 digs. VanderWall hit .556 against the Trojans, scoring 11 kills — the fifth straight match in which she scored double-digit kills.
“I think we all individually did little tasks better,” VanderWall said. “We made a point of having constant communication which created more court synergy.”
Vyletel said that the team is still focusing on improving to keep up the new momentum it’s finding in conference play.
“Even though our energy was high throughout the matches, there were times we were not as mentally strong as we should have been, so that will be something we work on in practice this week,” Vyletel said.
Over Homecoming weekend, the Chargers will play three home matches in the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena.
“Three games in one weekend is unusual for conference play,” VanderWall said. “We’ll need to focus on every ball and respect every opponent. We’ve been working a ton on the fundamental skills this week so we’re hoping to play some crisp volleyball this weekend.”
Vyletel expressed anticipation for the Chargers’ return home after the team’s longest road trip of the season.
“I hope everyone comes with a lot of energy ready to see some big plays from both sides of the court,” Vyletel said. “I’m excited to see all our hard work shown in play this weekend.”
On Friday evening, Hillsdale plays the Ohio Valley University Fighting Scots, who have a 2-4 G-MAC record. On Saturday at noon, the Chargers face Davis & Elkins, currently 2-3 in conference play. Finally, Sunday afternoon, the team will play Alderson-Broaddus University, which is winless in the G-MAC.
“We are excited to play three teams we’ve never played before,” Gravel said. “We plan to be ready.”