The Hillsdale Chargers’ season came to a end after their loss in the first round of the NCAA Division II tournament on Nov. 15. The Chargers’ goals for the season included having the best conference record, winning the conference tournament, and qualifying for the NCAA tournament, all of which they accomplished. Hillsdale was also gunning for a regional and national championship, but fell short.
“Of course, we want to win a regional and a national,” Gravel said. “We always aim high. If you come up a little short, it usually ends up being pretty good. But because we do aim high, it doesn’t feel any better if you don’t make that mark.”
The Chargers took on Drury University in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Hillsdale started out strong, winning the first set of the match.
“I think the shock and awe of NCAAs kinda got to us a little bit,” senior right side hitter Paige VanderWall said. “The first game we started out fresh but as the game went on we were unable to problem solve and strategize to combat their offense and defensive efforts.”
The Chargers ultimately fell in four sets to the Panthers. Drury was the top seed in the region and had home-court advantage.
“It seemed like we pulled back on the reins a little bit,” Gravel said. “Maybe let the situation get the best of us. Our seniors, they were strong. It’s not like we were bad. We just weren’t playing our best at that point.”
The end of the season also marks the end of three Hillsdale volleyball careers: VanderWall, Taylor Bennett, and Kara Vyletel.
“Every team falls back on their seniors and our seniors were incredible,” freshman outside hitter Maggie DePorre said. “Paige, we always knew we could fall back on her and she would get the point when we needed it. Taylor Bennett, she’s like our rock. Kara is our go-to player. The seniors are all very strong.”
A number of Chargers also received individual honors. VanderWall was named the G-MAC Player of the Year and Midwest Region Player of the Year by the Division II Conference Commissioners’ Association. She was also named third team All-American by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. This is VanderWall’s second All-American honor, and she joins two other Charger volleyball players in earning multiple recognitions.
VanderWall, Vyletel, Lindsey Mertz, Allyssa Van Wienen, and Taylor Wiese all made first team all-G-MAC, while Hannah Gates made second team all-G-MAC. Gravel was named G-MAC Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season.
The Chargers went undefeated against conference opponents this season at 19 – 0, and won the G-MAC regular season championship and the G-MAC tournament championship for the second year in a row.
The Chargers have a slight break over Christmas, but Gravel provides them with a suggested workout routine to ready them for spring training.
“That workout helps them come in more prepared and avoid injury,” Gravel said. “In January we start up and they can try to walk into that, but they’re going to be pretty sore if they fail to do anything.”
The team will put in the work in the winter, spring, and summer to prepare for the start of the 2019 season.
“Everything you do at practice is going to prepare you for that big match at the end of the season and every match along the way,” DePorre said. “Every rep you get is really going to prepare you for the moment that matters most. Playing for each other is really what’s going to take us far because we love the game.”