The Hillsdale College Chargers gather for a picture during an inter-squad scrimmage during the fall. (Corrine Prost | Courtesy)

The Hillsdale College Chargers will kick off their spring season on Sunday, hosting Dav­enport Uni­versity. Fol­lowing a dom­inant 2017 – 2018 season that ended with a G-MAC cham­pi­onship, Hillsdale will look to follow up that success with more in their second year in the con­ference.

Davenport’s fall record was 1 – 8, and although Hillsdale didn’t have any formal meets in the fall, the team kept up its game by playing in two tour­na­ments, the ITA Regionals at Grand Valley State Uni­versity and the Northwest Ohio Invi­ta­tional in Lima, Ohio. 

“[The tour­na­ments] gave us a lot of stuff to work on in the off­season and take into the spring season. I was really happy with the quality of the matches,” coach Nikki Wal­bright said.

Wal­bright also said the two freshmen on the team, Sarah Hackman and Sophia Spinazze, have changed the team dynamic in ways she didn’t imagine, since no one left the team after last season.

For her part, Spinazze said she’s looking forward to finding a place to fit into the team. 

“I want to keep working hard, find what the team needs, and fill that role,” Spinazze said. “Really just learning from the other girls what college tennis is like.” 

The Chargers worked on getting com­fortable in doubles play during the fall, some­thing that showed in the doubles matches when senior Corinne Prost and junior Katie Bell took the ‘A’ con­so­lation draw at September’s ITA Regionals and freshman Sarah Hackman and Cim­peanu went 3 – 0 in doubles play at the NWO Invi­ta­tional. 

“Corinne and Katie Bell have been excellent,” Wal­bright said. “They’re a really strong team, so I see them having a really strong start of the season together.”

Spinazze, who went 2 – 1 in singles and picked up a win with Julia For­mentin at the NWO Invi­ta­tional, learned from tour­nament play that she needs to work on taking charge of points.

“I worked most on stepping in when I see the oppor­tunity and taking control of the point. I’m more of a defensive player, which is good,” Spinazze said.  “But at the same time I’m working on having both sides to my game instead of just the one.”

The Chargers want to go into Sunday’s com­pe­tition with a flexible mindset, according to Prost.

“Our team gen­erally goes into each match with the basics: being open to an adjustable game plan, and finding a point of con­sis­tency to return to if the match begins to get away from us,” Prost said. “Pos­i­tivity and giving con­sistent encour­agement to each other is always a given.”

Walbright’s goal as coach follows the flexible nature of the sport, she said. 

“It’s a team sport, but it’s very indi­vidual,” Wal­bright said. “Having a good awareness of what each player is working on, and knowing their per­son­al­ities so I can coach them well, and then also helping provide them an envi­ronment that makes them all suc­cessful.”

Senior Halle Hyman, last year’s G-MAC Player of the Year, will return to com­pe­tition after eight months away from the sport due to a shoulder injury. She will finish her college career in a position to defend the con­ference dom­i­nance she and the Chargers enjoyed in 2018. 

“It’s a tough sit­u­ation to be in, but I’ve been sur­prised by how seam­lessly she’s been able to come back and practice,” Wal­bright said. “Her footwork is great, and her shots are great. She’s a fighter and has the expe­rience of being able to win tight matches.”

The Chargers will play a handful of non-con­ference oppo­nents before their con­ference schedule begins March 29. Sunday’s game begins at 1 p.m.

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    Both the men’s and women’s Tennis Pro­grams should have an excellent chance at repeating as GMAC cham­pions this season. The ladies team is probably a wee bit stronger in com­parison to other GMAC pro­grams, but the Men are deep as well. It’s going to be exciting seeing how they compete OOC at the start of the season.