In their last match of the regular season, the Hillsdale College Chargers defeated Cedarville University 7 – 0 as they honored their seniors in the Biermann Center.
All four seniors, Corinne Prost, Halle Hyman, Madeline Bissett, and Julia Formentin earned singles wins en route to victory. Hyman did not drop a game, Bissett and Formentin won easily in straight sets, and Prost came from losing the first set to force a tiebreak which she won 10 – 7.
The journey for these four has been a long one, filled with success and adversity over the past four years. Growth is a common theme among these players, who have experienced many challenges in their time in the tennis program.
“The journey through four years in the program has been extremely beneficial to me and my personal growth. It made my college experience something that I’ll never forget,” Formentin said. “Being a student-athlete was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, but also one of the most rewarding.”
As someone who experienced a few stressful matches this season in her 8 – 1 singles and 1 – 2 doubles record this season, Prost said she sometimes felt pushed to her brink and learned how to press on.
“The ability to smile and give love in all its forms when you’re feeling negative, the ability to push harder on a sprint when you have what feels like nothing left to give, and many more skills I’m still working on were a part of what being a Charger tennis player gave me,” Prost said. “I will forever be grateful for that.”
Still, when thinking about this weekend being the end of her collegiate career, Prost said she almost couldn’t comprehend it.
“I get the same feeling you get when you go through your favorite childhood toys — that season of your life felt never-ending,” Prost said, “but then it was gone all too soon. It’s surreal.”
Looking back on the past four years, head coach Nikki Walbright said she’s seen the seniors flourish into the players they are right now through the many changes the program has gone through.
“We’ve had four very different years here because we switched leagues and matches were kind of all over the place so they’ve all stayed really positive,” Walbright said. “I think this year has been their shining year. Last year we didn’t have seniors so they were forced into that role, but this year they really shined with it.”
She said their efforts have strengthened and pushed the team toward success so far, which comes from consistent hard work and dedication.
“They don’t have any case of senioritis or anything. They’re the ones driving the rest of the team to work super hard and have stayed really consistent,” Walbright said. “They’re not checked out at all.”
On the eve of the G‑MAC Championship, where winning guarantees a bid to the NCAA Regional Tournament, Walbright said the team is focused on staying committed to their season-long mindset of going into matches with confidence but not expectation.
“You never know on any given day how matches will be, so our mentality needs to go in thinking about it as a new match, having the confidence that we have a really good season behind us, but not necessarily being overconfident that it’s going to be easy, because I think they will be two very difficult matches that we have to play,” Walbright said.
As the no. 1 seed, the Chargers will play no. 4 seed Findlay University on Friday, and may go on to play the winner of no. 2 Walsh University vs. no. 3 Tiffin University.
Walbright said the team will be working on trying to stay focused on the point ahead this weekend.
“We’re working on consistency — we don’t want to let the small things define us this weekend, we want to be consistent with how we hit the ball, how we win our points, staying really confident on the court,” Walbright said. “We want to be really positive about what we do and work really hard with it.”
This season, with the help of the seniors and consistent contribution from sophomore Hannah Cimpeanu and freshman Sarah Hackman on the one and two courts, the Chargers have put together a very strong season, finishing at 14 – 2 overall, and an undefeated 7 – 0 in the G‑MAC. These successes have put them in the national ranking at the highest ever at no. 46 last week and earned them the top seed in the G‑MAC.
“It’s been cool that our successes led us to the point that we’re in, but we’ve gotta keep staying focused on the task at hand — to win the next match, to hopefully win the tournament, and to win the NCAAs,” Walbright said. “The pressure is there, but we’re excited for it.”