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.”