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Gordon Behr tips in a game last season. Gabe Prieur | Courtesy

The Hillsdale College Chargers are ranked second in the G‑MAC pre­season coaches poll, behind only last year’s regular season champion, the Uni­versity of Findlay. However, sophomore Matt Fisher says he doesn’t think the team should settle for second.

“While I’m sure the team is honored to be rec­og­nized as high as second, our goal is to be number one,” Fisher said.

The team opened its season in an exhi­bition game against Division I Oakland Uni­versity on Wednesday, falling 67 – 61 in a com­pet­itive contest. They will take on the Uni­versity of Toledo Rockets in an exhi­bition in Toledo, Ohio on Nov. 3. Hillsdale begins its regular season on Nov. 9, and its con­ference schedule on Nov. 29. 

Head coach John Tharp is says he is looking forward to his 12th season with the Chargers.

“It’s always like Christmas morning,” Tharp said. “There’s the excitement of a new season, and you get really excited as a coach, and as a player too, I hope.”

With three new freshmen and two key players lost to grad­u­ation, Hillsdale will feature some changes in its lineup.

“We lost two of our best scorers,” Tharp said. “We’ve got to try to figure out how to replace, those guys. We lost Ryan Bad­owski and Stedman Lowry, our starting two and three, who were both 1000-point scorers.”

Freshman Jack Gohlke is coming into his first season as a guard. Patrick Cartier and Peter Kaltoff are the new freshmen for­wards. 

“We think we still have some really capable young guys,” Tharp said. “It’s their turn, that’s the men­tality they’re going to have to have. Guys’ roles are changing.” 

Tharp says he’s con­fident in looking to some of his more expe­ri­enced players to step up to fill these key roles. Some of these players are seniors Har­rison Niego and Jonathan Wilkinson, junior Mike Travlos, and sophomore Davis Larson.

“It’s cool because I have a lot of expe­rience, with it being my senior year,” Niego said. “I’ll be able to lead by example and teach the younger guys what I’ve learned during my three years here and one at Indiana.”

Niego shares Tharp’s excitement for the season as well.

“This is my senior year, so it’s the last go-around,” Niego said. “We’ve got a bunch of guys with expe­rience and some younger guys with talent. The expe­rience and youth together should make for a special season.”

The Chargers began their season on Wednesday, which came rather quickly after their first day of official practice on Oct. 15. As for the quick turn­around from the season beginning to the season-opener game, Tharp says the team has just been focusing on the fun­da­mentals.

“We want to be as fun­da­men­tally sound as we can,” he said. “We can’t cover every­thing, and we’re not going to be ready for every sit­u­ation. If Oakland throws some­thing goofy at us, we’ll just have to go with it on the fly.” 

In order to prepare for this, Tharp says the team is trying a new way of prac­ticing. 

“We’ll just find out what our strengths and weak­nesses are,” Tharp said. “We’re trying to play more five-on-five early instead of every­thing being a breakdown.” 

The season-opener will be a great way for the team to implement some of what they’ve been working on it practice, according to Niego.

“We’ve been prac­ticing a ton over the past week, so now we have the oppor­tunity to play against a dif­ferent school, not just our own team,” Niego said. “We’ll be able to put the st stuff we’ve been prac­ticing to use.”

The Chargers will play seven games before com­peting against fellow G‑MAC teams. Fisher says that doesn’t change how Hillsdale will prepare.

“Our mindset going into every game is to win, and the expec­tation doesn’t change regardless of the team we play,” Fisher said.