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.