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Lindsay Mertz sets the ball for Veronica O’Connor during a game last season. Liam Bredberg | Col­legian

After going unde­feated in the G‑MAC for a second year in a row, the Hills­dsale College Chargers hope to three-peat and build upon their success, this time aiming for a longer run in the NCAA Division II Tour­nament. 

Joining the team this season are incoming freshmen Madeline Zenas, Audrey Riley, Emily Susitko, Megan Kolp, and and Linnea Larson. This class will join a team on the heels of greatness, striving toward its third con­sec­utive con­ference cham­pi­onship and a longer run in the playoffs.. 

Bat­tling to make a statement and become role players after a tran­sition from high school to college ath­letics, freshman ath­letes face daily chal­lenges both on and off the court. With rig­orous course loads and other require­ments attached to being a Hillsdale College student, the young players will have a busy schedule in the early days of their ath­letic and aca­demic careers.

“I hope to perform suc­cess­fully both on and off the court this semester,” said  Zenas. “I under­stand that school work is a big pri­ority so I want to focus on man­aging my time well when I’m not playing vol­leyball.”

Larson said she sought wisdom from her older team­mates on how she could succeed in her first semester classes at Hillsdale. 

“My team­mates have given me tips for every class I’m in,” Larson said. “They told me what to expect and how to be best pre­pared to boost my con­fi­dence going into freshman year.l.” 

The jump between high school and college comes with ath­letic chal­lenges players didn’t  pre­vi­ously face. The freshman class answered these chal­lenges with strategies to help them succeed on the court. 

“Everyone in college wants to be here and wants to win and that’s refreshing coming from a school that did not take it as seri­ously,” Riley said. “We hold each other accountable and want the best for each other and the team.”

“I want to make sure that each day I’m working to get better and when I leave the locker room I know I’ve bet­tered myself as a player,” Zenas said. “My team­mates give me a lot of pointers for both school and vol­leyball which are always super helpful in the long run.”

Head Coach Chris Gravel holds that one of the most important aspects of the longtime success of his team is mental state. 

“The team read David Goggins’s book ‘Can’t Hurt Me’ during our spring season which strengthened the mental training regimen that we have developed for the team over the past 24 seasons,” Gravel said. “The tri­fecta of mental training, team bonding and rela­tion­ships, and physical training forms the foun­dation on which we hope to accom­plish our goals.”

The Chargers were ranked first in the G‑MAC pre­season coach’s poll for the 2019 season as favorites to win the con­ference cham­pi­onship, receiving 142 votes from coaches within the con­ference. The Chargers also look to extend a 34-game con­ference win streak,a  G‑MAC record. The Uni­versity of Findlay was a close second in the poll receiving 135 points. 

Gravel said he hopes to improve upon the pre­vious season’s success through focusing not only on con­ference success, but also strong fin­ishes in tour­na­ments. 

“At this point in the season, we’re still focused on con­sistent day to day improvement and forming the habits that will end up ben­e­fiting us later in the season,” he said. 

The Chargers travel to Florida this weekend to take part in the Terrace Hotel Classic tour­nament. They play two games on Friday, the first against No. 5 Con­cordia Uni­versity St. Paul. They’ll wrap up the tour­nament on Sat­urday with two more games, the first against No. 17 Uni­versity of Central Mis­souri.