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Lauren Daf­fenberg shoots in a game earlier this season. (S. Nathaniel Grime | Col­legian)

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.”