The Hillsdale College Chargers split their first two home games of the season, losing to Saginaw Valley University on Friday and defeating Northwood University on Sunday. The Chargers won’t return to their home court to play until Dec. 14.
On Friday morning, Hillsdale built a 27 – 21 lead against Saginaw Valley by halftime, but the Cardinals rallied in the third and fourth quarters to eventually come out on top, 53 – 50. The Chargers were held scoreless for the last three minutes of the game.
“If we give up 53 [points] we should win,” head coach Matt Fritsche said. “[Offensively], we just didn’t have the balance we were looking for.”
Both teams didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor. The Cardinals shot just 34.5%, and the Chargers shot 32.7%. Hillsdale turned the ball over 21 times, to Saginaw Valley’s 12.
“There were definitely first-game jitters for a lot of people,” sophomore guard Lauren Daffenberg said. “Just learning the pace of the game and knowing what was a good shot last year or what kind of shots we’re expecting to take is different from last year to this year.”
Daffenberg, starting her first collegiate game after coming off the bench exclusively in her freshman season last year, led the Chargers with 25 points. She made six of 16 three-point shots and all three of her free throw attempts, two areas of the court she was a lethal shooter from last season.
“Obviously I’m looking for the three-point shot,” Daffenberg said. “But I also know that teams will be expecting me to shoot the three, so I’m trying to develop other parts of my game.”
Daffenberg was the only Charger to score in double-digits, and scored exactly half of the team’s total points. Freshman forward Sydney Mills came off the bench in her first collegiate game and played 22 minutes. She scored five points, and grabbed six rebounds.
Junior guard Jaycie Burger, entering her second season as a full-time starter, scored five points and led the team with eight rebounds and three assists.
On Sunday, the Chargers trailed Northwood at halftime 39 – 36 and were tied at the end of the third quarter, but were able to rely on a more balanced offensive attack to take and maintain the lead in the fourth quarter, ultimately winning 80 – 71.
Hillsdale improved its shooting to 42.6% from the floor, out-rebounded the Timberwolves 46 – 30, and limited its turnovers to 11. The game featured nine ties and 10 lead changes in total.
“I’m proud of the unselfishness and the cerebral part of the game this team has. I’m super proud of their competitiveness,” Fritsche said. “All the mistakes we have we can grow from and improve on. I love where they’re starting.”
Daffenberg again led the offense in scoring, with 18 points. She only took five three-pointers however, but went seven-for-14 from the floor; a result of attacking the rim more often.
Sophomore guard Grace Touchette, who, like Daffenberg, often came off the bench to make an impact in her freshman season last year, scored 14 points and grabbed seven rebounds in her second game as a regular in the starting lineup this year.
“I don’t think they care if they were brought off the bench. We’ll have some tough decisions. We’re gonna experiment a little bit and see what works,” Fritsche said of his team’s starting lineup moving forward. “Some kids like coming off the bench and are more successful seeing the game for a second. We’ve gotta figure it out.”
Senior guard Sydney Anderson, another first-time starter, scored 13 points. Mills again came off the bench and contributed significant minutes, scoring nine points. Another freshman forward, Maverick Delp, shot four-four-six from the floor off the bench and scored eight points. Freshman center Kennedy Pratt scored eight points and grabbed six rebounds in a bench role.
“A big part of this season is developing our bench players, because they’re going to be fitting into a role,” Daffenberg said. “Hustle plays are a big thing. When you come in and have those spurts of energy, that does a lot for us.”
Daffenberg certainly understands what’s that like, as she was often the player to do that for the Chargers last season. Now with a larger freshman class to contribute off the bench, Hillsdale figures to utilize its bench depth to its advantage this year.
“It’ll be different people every night doing different things, whether that’s from the starters with scoring or others who can come off the bench and make a difference and an impact,” Daffenberg said. “It’s gonna be a different person every night. You’re gonna see a lot of names coming up this year.”
The Chargers now hit the road for seven consecutive road games; the first five coming against non-conference opponents. Tonight, they travel to Big Rapids, Michigan, to play the Ferris State University Bulldogs, who also have begun their season 1 – 1. Tip off tonight is at 5:30 p.m.
On Saturday, Hillsdale plays at Lake Superior State University at 4 p.m. Fritsche, who plays a role in scheduling his team’s non-conference games at the beginning of each season, said this year’s November gauntlet was no accident.
“It’s a little bit intentional. We wanted them to enjoy the time together and build cohesion and camaraderie in the road trips,” Fritsche said. “We wanted to challenge them with the schedule at a high level.”