“Somebody check that ball for splinters,” announcer Dave Sharpley exclaimed after a particularly impressive kill from the Charger side of the net in their game against Cedarville.
Tuesday night was a big night offensively for Hillsdale, three Chargers notched double digit kills and two achieved career highs.
Sophomore setter Lindsey Mertz and senior right side hitter Paige VanderWall delivered the big performances for the Chargers. Mertz set a career high with 56 assists in a four-set match. VanderWall exploded with a career high of 23 kills and also executed her 1,000th career kill in the second set against the Yellow Jackets.
“It’s an interesting milestone, considering it takes a pretty long time,” VanderWall said. “But I think it represents how lucky I’ve been to be on three teams that have all seen a success. This is just a tribute to everyone I’ve played with.”
VanderWall joins fellow senior Kara Vyletel as one of 10 Chargers to record 1,000 career kills.
“This accomplishment is not achieved by many and having two of them at the same time is even more of a rarity,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “We are very proud of this great milestone in their continuing careers. As a team and coaching staff, we acknowledge and move on very quickly when it comes to individual accomplishments. The ultimate accomplishment is what we do as a team.”
The team remains undefeated in conference play with their win over Cedarville. The match, however, wasn’t without its challenges. After losing 25 – 23 in the second set, Gravel gave his players what he called “a little reality check”.
“He basically told us that it was unacceptable,” senior setter Taylor Bennett said. “How we were performing wasn’t up to practice standards much less game standards. It was a challenge to us. It was very much, ‘If you’re not going to perform, I have someone on the bench who will’.”
The Chargers easily handled Cedarville in the first set, winning 25 – 12. Bennett said she believed the loss came from a lack of urgency.
“It’s really easy, when you kill a team, to get really complacent,” she said. “We start over at 0 every set. You definitely have to maintain that sense of urgency and bring the game to the other team every set. We’ve struggled with that this season and we definitely struggled with that last year.”
Prior to Tuesday’s match, the Chargers beat Malone University on Sept. 7.
“It was a hard fought match,” Gravel said. “They played outstanding defense, really made our offense work hard. We also made a lot of great plays too.”
Vanderwall said Malone’s defense was impressive, but the Chargers were able to answer with good defense of their own.
“They were all over the court,” Vanderwall said. “I think Lindsey did a great job moving the ball around on our side, and Taylor Wiese and Madie Schider dug well to keep long rallies going. We were then able to set up to attack when the ball came on our side.”
Junior libero Taylor Wiese had 28 digs, two off from a career high of 30.
“She was outstanding, Gravel said. “If you get 30, you’re nationally recognized. She came up with a lot of big plays.”
The Chargers dropped the third game of the match to the Pioneers. The team played well but didn’t execute as well as they had in the previous sets.
“It’s hard to say what happened,” Gravel said. “They (Malone) just played a little bit better in that game. It was kind of two equal teams. We just made too many mistakes on our side of the net.”
Wiese said the team lacked intensity in that third set.
“What was different in that set was we let off of the gas,” Wiese said. “Our main focus going into practices this week and the rest of the season is to not let up on teams if we have a great first set.”
The Chargers travel to the University of Findlay and Ohio Dominican University this weekend. The team plans to implement the lessons from Malone and Cedarville in its games on Friday and Saturday.
“Tuesday night was a good reality check,” Bennett said. “Things like that can either go good or bad. We know we have to step up and play better this weekend.”