Hillsdale College vol­leyball fin­ished the season with a 28 – 4 record, after falling to Findlay in regional play. (Photo: Todd Lan­caster | Courtesy)

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.”

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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