The 2017 – 2018 academic year was the first time in 42 years that Hillsdale College athletics competed in a conference other than the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). Last year marked the school’s switch to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (G-MAC), an NCAA Division II conference founded in 2011.
The Chargers enjoyed a largely successful year, compiling nine G-MAC championships and earning five NCAA Division II Tournament appearances. These successes earned Hillsdale the 2017 – 2018 G-MAC President’s Cup award, which recognizes the school with the best cumulative conference finish among all of its sports programs. The award was the first of any kind for Hillsdale College.
The remarkable run of successes began with the volleyball season, as the team compiled a 28 – 4 record and went 15 – 2 in the conference en route to a G-MAC title. From there, the postseason ended in a G-MAC championship and NCAA tournament appearance.
Volleyball head coach Chris Gravel saw the championship team as hard-fighting and special, but expects to go further this season.
“This will not be an easy task,” Gravel said of the current season’s ambitions. “Our team will need to stay focused and work very hard in games and in practices.”
Inside the Roche Sports Complex, the men’s (21 – 10) and women’s (19 – 11) basketball teams each had winning seasons. The men were G-MAC tournament runner-ups and qualified for the NCAA tournament. The women took down the G-MAC’s top three teams on their way to the conference championship, earning an
automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
On the tennis courts, both the men’s and women’s teams had successful years. After a 14 – 6 season, the men’s team won the G-MAC Championship over Walsh University, 5 – 1.
“We knew that we would probably have to beat a solid Walsh team three times in order to win the conference and we were able to do that, which wasn’t an easy accomplishment,” men’s tennis head coach Keith Turner said.
The upcoming season looks promising for the Chargers, as Dugan Delp ‘18 was the only senior to graduate and the rest of the team is back for another year. That includes No. 1 singles and last year’s
G-MAC Player of the Year, junior Milan Mirkovich, along with the No. 1 doubles team of junior Charlie Adams and senior Justin Hyman.
On the women’s side, the Chargers had a dominant regular season, going undefeated in conference play and beating Walsh in the G-MAC Championship 5 – 1 for the program’s second conference championship. Last year’s team had no seniors and will be back at full strength this year, eyeing another tournament title.
Head coach Nikki Walbright was impressed with the ladies’ transition into the new conference that competes in the spring.
“Not only were they able to maintain an NCAA regional ranking all spring, they
balanced their classes and we ended up with seven girls on Dean’s List and a record high team GPA,” Walbright said.
Senior Corinne Prost, No. 1 doubles and No. 4 singles starter, enjoyed the later start as well.
“The move from a fall to a spring season also helped give us more time to bond, which helped our doubles teams, and play practice matches for an entire semester before competing,” Prost said.
For the upcoming season, she is excited for the addition of two new teammates, freshmen Sarah Hackman and Sophia Spinazze.
“I’m looking forward to training with the two new faces on our team— it’s always fun to have new teammates,
because each brings their own playing style and personality,” Prost said.
Women’s track and field earned the G-MAC triple crown, winning cross country, indoor and outdoor G-MAC championships. Cross country earned three first-team all-conference honors, and indoor and outdoor track combined for 12 individual conference championships.
As students were heading home after the spring semester earlier this year, the baseball team made headlines at the G-MAC Championship, outlasting the field in the double elimination tournament and eventually beating Kentucky Wesleyan University in the championship game, earning its first conference tournament title in program history.
Infielder Colin Hites ‘18 attributes the team’s successes to preparation for the season and trust in his teammates.
“What made us find success as a team — and what I believe is changing this program entirely — is trusting that every guy around you is working as hard as they possibly can as well,” Hites said.
As for the upcoming year, Hites looks forward to seeing his old team beat the records he helped set last season. He also has some sure bets on a few of his teammates’ stat lines.
“It’s cool to see this ship just continue to trend upward, and become a real, legitimate regional power,” Hites said. “[Senior] Steven Ring is going to hit 20 dingers, [Senior] Kevin Monson is going to set the single season walk record, and [Senior] Colin Boerst will win the first-ever G-MAC most beautiful player award.”
The softball team’s story followed a similar script. After a dominant regular season (25 – 16), the team won the G-MAC tournament against Kentucky Wesleyan University to earn a place in the NCAA Midwest Regional Tournament for the first time in program history. The Chargers defeated No. 1 seed Grand Valley State University in their first game before losing to Southern Indiana University and GVSU in the double elimination tournament.
In addition to the team successes last year, four different head coaches were awarded five total G-MAC Coach of the Year titles. Three Hillsdale athletes took home G-MAC Player of the Year honors. Five freshmen were named the G-MAC Freshman of the Year in their respective sports.
Coming off of numerous program-highs, Hillsdale athletics figure to compete at a championship-caliber level again this academic year.