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.