(Photo: Todd Lancaster / Courtesy)

In its first home matches since September, Hillsdale volleyball swept Trevecca Nazarene and Kentucky Wesleyan last weekend.

The Chargers’ G-MAC record improves to 14-2, and their overall record stands at 24-3. They have won 17 consecutive matches since their last loss on Sept. 15. According to NCAA rankings released on Wednesday, Hillsdale is currently ranked third in the Midwest region.

“We’ve been winning because we’ve had good game plans and solid executions,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “Everyone was happy to be playing at home again, too.”

The Chargers started the weekend on Saturday against Kentucky Wesleyan, winning three sets in a row with scores of 25-14, 25-13, and 25-14.

Overall, the team had a hitting percentage of .340. It capitalized on leads early in each set with an aggressive defensive effort, limiting the Panthers to .018.

“This weekend our defense was all over the court. They were running down balls, picking up hard swings, they were outstanding,” freshman middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen said. “I think communication is a really big factor and this comes a lot from how well the team has connected and grown together, on and off the court.”

Sophomore libero Taylor Wiese made 19 of Hillsdale’s 57 digs, followed by junior right side hitter Paige VanderWall, who added eight.

Offensively, the Chargers played an efficient game as well. Junior outside hitter Kara Vyletel had 11 kills and a .417 personal hitting percentage. VanderWall had seven kills for a .462, and freshman outside hitter Maddie Clark provided four of her own. But against Kentucky Wesleyan, Van Wienen led the Chargers’ offense with 14 kills, a solo block, and three block assists.

For her performance last weekend, Van Wienen was named the G-MAC’s player of the week for the second time this season — an impressive accomplishment for a freshman player. She currently leads the G-MAC for overall personal hitting percentage at .342.

“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” she said. “It is an honor, but it’s an honor for all of us even more than it is an honor for me.”

Gravel said that Van Wienen is a key player on this year’s team, and he is excited for her to improve even more in coming seasons.

Hillsdale went on to win their second match of the weekend on Saturday against Trevecca Nazarene with set scores of 25-10, 25-17, and 25-19.

The team served particularly well against the Trojans with nine aces. VanderWall, Van Wienen, and senior outside hitter Jackie Langer each made two aces to contribute to the team’s success.

“I think our serving really played a huge part because we were able to move the ball really effectively to get their defense on their heels,” VanderWall said. “Our offensive players also did a great job of putting the ball down as well which allowed us to capitalize on offense all around.”

Van Wienen kept her strong weekend going, with 11 kills for a .524 hitting percentage. Langer followed her performance with 10 kills of her own, and Vyletel scored nine. Overall, the team had a .407 hitting percentage, thanks in part to the 44 total assists provided by freshmen setters Lindsey Mertz and junior Taylor Bennett.

Wiese made another 19 digs against Trevecca Nazarene to lead the defense once again. VanderWall made 11 digs of her own, followed by Mertz and Bennett, each with seven.

Up next, the Chargers will play the University of Findlay at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena this Friday at 7 p.m. in what looks to be a challenging match.

The Oilers are one of the few teams who beat Hillsdale earlier this season, in a five-set nailbiter on Sept. 12. They currently lead the G-MAC in service aces, while the Chargers lead the conference in allowing the fewest aces. Findlay is currently ranked seventh in the NCAA regional rankings.

“I think our biggest challenge will be that we will put too much emphasis on the fact that it’s Findlay,” Van Wienen said. “Yes, this match is important and determines who will host the conference tournament. However, we play best when we are relaxed and having fun, so in order to beat Findlay we must focus on playing our game and what is going on on our side of the net instead of putting the focus on what Findlay is doing on their side of the net.”