The Hillsdale College volleyball team lost for the first time since September in a season-ending loss to the University of Findlay during NCAA regional quarterfinals last week.
The Chargers finished their season with a 28 – 4 overall record, and the Oilers went on to a 3 – 0 loss to Rockhurst University in the next round of the tournament.
“Findlay played relaxed, and we played as a favorite,” Hillsdale head coach Chris Gravel said. “There is a big difference between the feelings of wanting to win and having to win. I hope we can learn from this and do better next year.”
Both of Hillsdale’s losses to Findlay this season happened on the road.
“We didn’t have the home court advantage this time,” junior right side hitter Paige VanderWall said. “On top of that, beating a team a second time versus a third holds different challenges.”
The Oilers opened the match by winning the first set 25 – 22. Then, the Chargers came back from the deficit to win the next two sets 25 – 16 and 25 – 22. Then, Findlay rebounded to win the penultimate set 25 – 22.
“We got in our own heads and didn’t perform at a high level,” junior outside hitter Kara Vyletel said. “But our team is young, so we have plenty of room to grow and a strong season to look forward to next year.”
The Oilers and the Chargers went point-for-point in the final set, but Findlay prevailed 16 – 14 in the end.
Throughout the match, Hillsdale’s offense put up a strong performance. Vyletel led the offense with 19 kills, followed by freshman middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen with 12. Senior outside hitter Jackie Langer made 11 kills in her final match of college volleyball.
“Jackie is a phenomenal outside who will be missed on the court,” VanderWall said. “But she will be staying at Hillsdale next year, which is a huge blessing in the eyes of the rest of the team so we’ll still be able to grow and learn from her.”
VanderWall and Vyletel, the team’s top two attackers, were both named All-Americans by the American Volleyball Coaches Association on Tuesday.
Hillsdale’s offense, though, was not enough to overcome Findlay’s defense. They limited Hillsdale to a .207 team hitting percentage, and stacked up 12 blocks.
Sophomore libero Taylor Wiese led the Chargers’ defense with 21 digs, followed by Langer with 18 and freshman setter Lindsey Mertz with 15. Van Wienen had three solo blocks, and the team had seven total.
Looking ahead to next year, members of the Hillsdale volleyball program are confident they will have a successful season
“Next year, we’re going to have another well-disciplined team that will represent themselves, their team, and their college in the best way possible,” Gravel said.
Vyletel said that, because the team is so young now, she believes that they can look forward to more growth next season.
“We’ll be a stronger and older team,” VanderWall said. “We’ve got talented freshmen and, more importantly, the same hunger to win we always have.”