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Hillsdale College vol­leyball won its home opener last Thursday (Photo: Todd Lan­caster | Courtesy)

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.”