In front of a large crowd of excited fans last Thursday, the Hillsdale College Chargers delivered in their home opener, beating the Ohio Valley University Fighting Scots in three sets.
The Chargers kept the Fighting Scots under 20 points each game. All four freshmen — Karoline Shelton, Maggie DePorre, Samantha Malcolm, and Emma Noskey — made an appearance for Hillsdale.
“I thought it went well,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “Everybody came in and did their job. It was a good team effort in that way.”
While the Chargers controlled each set against the Fighting Scots, Ohio Valley was able to knock Hillsdale back on its heels with offensive attacks. Senior Paige VanderWall, named G-MAC West Division Player of the Week, said the team is working to combat that in future matches.
“We’re playing with two different types of defense right now, so I think just getting used to that on the court and getting in the swing of this season will definitely help it improve as time goes on,” she said. “Probably our biggest focus is to cut down on errors, which will largely be done in practice by coming mentally prepared to make the most of every contact.”
Gravel agreed with VanderWall’s assessment.
“We can play at an extremely high level, a higher level than we played at last year,” he said. “Doing that from start to finish has been something that we’ve struggled with so far this season.”
The Chargers struggled with consistency last weekend at the Findlay Classic in Findlay, Ohio.
“It was pretty up and down, and we uncovered a lot of things we need to work on,” VanderWall said. “I’m not totally satisfied with our performance, and I think that’s a mutual feeling across the team. We need to be mentally tougher and execute more effectively.”
The team will be working on basic skills in practice to help improve some of its weaknesses.
“We’re going back to some of the basics to help with inconsistencies,” Gravel said. “We know we can play at as high of a level as anyone in the nation. It’s not just playing great volleyball. It’s playing winning volleyball.”
Those basics, with enough practice, figure to aid the team both defensively and offensively.
“We’re working a lot on defense and blocking,” Shelton said. “I think that’s really helping us overcome those difficulties. A lot of those issues can be cured by pressing over on the block.”
Gravel also plans to utilize the experience and expertise of his veteran players.
“The seniors are the ones that should be able to carry a load, especially on the mental side of things. They’re absolutely vital to the success of this team,” he said. “Every team every year goes through some growing pains. You hope with an older team you can skip that step. We weren’t able to skip that step, but hopefully we’ve learned more quickly than last year.”
The Chargers travel to Malone University on Friday, then return home to take on Cedarville University on Tuesday.
“Malone can play at an extremely high level, but maintaining that high level hasn’t always been their strength,” Gravel said. “We’re not going to walk into any gym and win just by walking in. We have to bring the game in, both physically and mentally.”