Freshman Allyssa Van Wienen (left) leads the Chargers with 56 blocks this year, while freshman Lindsey Mertz (right) is fourth in sets with 79. (Photo: MaryKate Drews | Courtesy)

Hillsdale vol­leyball closed out a perfect month with vic­tories over Walsh, Malone, Cedarville, and Ohio Dominican.

The Chargers’ record improved to 22 – 3 overall and 12 – 2 in con­ference play. With their impressive record and long streak of wins — the longest since the 2011 season — Hillsdale was ranked third in the NCAA’s Midwest regional rankings.

On October 20, the Chargers beat Walsh Uni­versity in just three sets, scoring 25 – 7, 25 – 17, and 22 – 17. The team had an overall .437 hitting per­centage, and kept Walsh to just .140.

Junior rightside hitter Paige Van­derWall led the offense with 14 kills and no errors — a career high for her. Senior outside hitter Jackie Langer scored 12 kills of her own, and freshman middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen scored nine kills with a per­sonal hitting per­centage of .571.

Freshman setter Lindsey Mertz pro­vided the support Hillsdale’s offense needed for its out­standing per­for­mance, with 37 assists and seven digs.

“Lindsey was able to move the ball really effec­tively to get their defense on their heels,” Van­derWall said.

The Chargers fol­lowed up their win over Walsh with another over Malone Uni­versity the next day — offi­cially securing a spot in the G-MAC playoffs.

Hillsdale’s defense put up a strong per­for­mance against Walsh, lim­iting the Pio­neers to a .123 hitting per­centage. Sophomore libero Taylor Wiese had 27 digs, and Mertz had 42 assists and 17 digs of her own. Junior outside hitter Kara Vyletel tallied a double-double, with 17 digs and 14 kills.

Langer, Van­derWall, and Van­Wienen also per­formed well, scoring 10, 12, and 14 kills respec­tively. Overall, the team had a .280 hitting per­centage and served 10 aces.

“Making the G-MAC tour­nament is only one small step. We are com­peting for a divi­sional title which will be deter­mined over the next three weekends,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “Then we will compete for a con­ference title which will be deter­mined over the next four weeks. And finally we are com­peting for the oppor­tunity to com­plete in the NCAA tour­nament which only takes the top eight teams in our region of close to 50 schools.”

The Chargers took two more steps toward their goals over fall break, avenging their loss earlier this season to Cedarville and defeating Ohio Dominican the second time this season.

Cedarville, cur­rently 10 – 4 in con­ference play, beat Hillsdale 3 – 1 on Sep­tember 15, but the Chargers turned that score around in a hard-fought victory on October 27.

Cedarville’s defense — one of the best blocking teams in the G-MAC — was at the top of its game, tal­lying 13 blocks and keeping Hillsdale to a .171. The Chargers met this per­for­mance with defensive strength of their own, holding the Yellow Jackets to a .139 hitting per­centage.

Wiese led the defensive effort with 30 digs in the match — a career high, and an unusual accom­plishment for any player. Mertz sup­plied 11 digs and 46 assists, while Langer got a double-double of her own with 14 digs and 11 kills.

Vyletel led Hillsdale’s offense against the Yellow Jackets, scoring 17 kills, seven of which came in the final set. Van­derWall also com­peted well at Cedarville, with nine kills and 10 digs.

Van­derWall attributed the team’s improvement to the rela­tion­ships the players have built with each other.

“I think our all around chem­istry and trust on the team has really led us to get into a groove and be able to problem solve more quickly in tense sit­u­a­tions,” Van­derWall said. “We’re a more sea­soned team now, espe­cially for how young we are, which has also helped.”

The Chargers con­cluded their long month away from home with their second win over Ohio Dominican this year on October 28. After losing the first set 19 – 25, Hillsdale came back to win the next three matches.

Though the Pan­thers scored a .351 hitting per­centage in the first match, Hillsdale’s defense stepped up to the chal­lenge and reduced their overall hitting per­centage to a .195. Sophomore middle hitter Veronica O’Connor set new career highs of three solo blocks and two block assists.

The Chargers put up a strong fight offen­sively, too, led by Langer’s season-high 15 kills and VanderWall’s 13 kills and .433 hitting per­centage. Freshman Madie Schider scored four aces — a new career high.

Looking ahead to this weekend, the Chargers return home to play Trevecca Nazarene (4 – 20) on Friday and Ken­tucky Wes­leyan (12 – 16) on Sat­urday.

“It feels like forever since we have been home, but we are fired up to be back in our gym,” Langer said. “We are looking to play some good vol­leyball and have some fun.”

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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