Junior Paige VanderWall is second on the team with 166 kills this season. (Photo: Todd Lancaster | Courtesy)

Hillsdale College volleyball ran its winning streak to eight matches with victories over Ursuline and Lake Erie last weekend.

“We’re keeping up the momentum by making every practice count and just keep getting a little bit better everyday as the season continues on,” sophomore libero Taylor Wiese said.

Friday’s match against the Ursuline Arrows was the first time the programs met on the court. Hillsdale won the match in three sets, thanks in large part to 10 service aces throughout the match — three of which were made by freshman middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen.

Junior outside hitter Paige VanderWall and senior outside hitter Jackie Langer both had seven kills and no hitting errors against Ursuline. The team’s overall hitting percentage was .400, while the Chargers’ defense kept Ursuline to a .111 through the match.

“We are always looking to improve our defense,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “The first line of defense for us is blocking, which we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on over the last couple of weeks.”

That practice paid off against Ursuline — the Chargers generated double the blocks the Arrows did. Wiese led the team’s defense against Ursuline with 11 digs, and freshman setter Lindsey Mertz contributed seven digs and 34 assists.

“Our away schedule is pretty daunting, but our team is used to traveling and we’ve done a fairly good job at coming off the bus ready to play,” junior rightside hitter Kara Vyletel said. “As long as we keep our mental strength and determination it shouldn’t be a huge factor in our play.”

The Chargers maintained their winning streak against Lake Erie the next day, beating the Storm in a 3-1 match.

Vyletel led Hillsdale’s offense with 17 kills throughout the match. Langer also significantly contributed to the team’s overall 54 kills with her personal season high of 14 kills and 17 digs. VanderWall had nine kills and 12 digs.

Hillsdale’s defense also performed well, keeping Lake Erie to an overall .138 hitting percentage. Van Wienen had three solo blocks, and Wiese had 27 blocks.

The Chargers only play Lake Erie once this season, so their victory on Saturday gave Hillsdale an advantage over the Storm if conference tournament seedings require tie-breaking.

Looking ahead to this weekend, the Chargers will compete in the tenth annual Midwest Region Crossover tournament against teams in several other midwest conferences — including former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference rivals. Results from this tournament will help determine seeding for the NCAA Regional Tournament later this season.

“The GLIAC pushed our team. We also had established rivals and knew more about the teams in the GLIAC,” Vyletel said. “The G-MAC has challenged us in a new way with unknown teams and playing schemes.”

Up first on Friday is former GLIAC opponent Ferris State, also on a eight match winning streak. The Bulldogs are the reigning GLIAC champions for the third year in a row.

“It’s hard to predict anything about this weekend,” Wiese said. “We play three really competitive teams, and we will just try to play our best volleyball and hopefully come out with some wins.”

The Chargers are on the road through the entire month of October. To compensate for the tiring schedule, members of the team have focused on honing the offensive skills they need to win explosively at tournaments like this weekend’s.

“One goal for this weekend is to work on a consistent and aggressive serve,” Langer said.

Hillsdale will also face another GLIAC team, Tiffin University, on Friday. Until a 3-1 loss last season, the Chargers won 15 matches in a row against the Dragons.

“The Crossover has some huge teams. This weekend will be big, but when it comes down to it we’re just trying to make three more steps this weekend,” Vyletel said. “No matter what the outcome, our team is more than excited to face these teams.”

Hillsdale will wrap up their trip to the Midwest Region Crossover with a match against the Bellarmine University Knights, currently ranked third in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

“We’re going to keep winning,” Gravel said. “We’re taking it one step at a time.”

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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