(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.”

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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