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The Chargers cel­e­brate on the court after their G-MAC tour­nament victory last year. (Photo: Todd Lan­caster / Courtesy)

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. 

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Quite an amazing first year in the GMAC for Hillsdale. The Chargers showed they can not only excel, but they can excel while main­taining TOP aca­demic stan­dards. The two are not mutually exclusive at Hillsdale College.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    What is not included here is a com­parison of the GMAC vs. GLIAC. As a sports enthu­siast, I am keenly aware that the GLIAC was a premium sports con­ference in DIV2 and that the schools included in the con­ference were all quite close in prox­imity to Hillsdale from a dis­tance per­spective. It seems as though the college has widened the net and likely increased travel budgets in order to get more W’s and play against inferior com­pe­tition. This isn’t nec­es­sarily a bad thing, just the grain of salt that needs to be taken with this kind of overview. Did we think that the teams sud­denly became that much better than they were the pre­vious year, or did the com­pe­tition drop off in the new league? The answer is fairly obvious. (once again. this isn’t nec­es­sarily bad)

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Awwww, come on Jen­nifer. Are you aware Hillsdale College’s vol­leyball team went into Div 1A WMU for an exhi­bition and played them tough before losing in 4 sets? And WMU are no slouches in vol­leyball, having won the MAC on several occa­sions.

      Hillsdale lady vol­ley­ballers are awesome and play at a high level for a Div 2 program. They’d be com­pet­itive in the GLIAC, but let’s face it-the size of the school matters. And 25,000 stu­dents at GVSU and 20,000 at Ferris makes those schools a bit of a chal­lenge for 1600 student school Hillsdale College.

      I like the GMAC, I like most of the schools and I like the level they play at in their ath­letic pro­grams. Until and unless Hillsdale commits to increasing the size of the school I’d stay with the GMAC. Just my ‘pinion.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        No question. They won those games and the NCAA tourney usually weighs for strength of schedule and scoring dif­fer­ential, so the vol­leyball stuff stands alone. The rest of the con­ference stuff though, does inflate wins a bit. It’s fine to be inGMAC. Good reporting though would note the dif­fer­ences in an article like this .