The Hillsdale College Chargers’ regular season will tip off Friday morning when they host The Saginaw Valley University Cardinals at 10:30 a.m. After the unconventional start time to begin the year, Hillsdale hosts the Northwood University Timberwolves on Sunday at 2 p.m.
According to a G‑MAC preseason coaches poll, the Chargers are picked to finish fifth in the 13-team conference. Hillsdale finished fifth in the regular season standings last year, behind Walsh University, Kentucky Wesleyan College, Cedarville University, and the University of Findlay. Those four teams are picked ahead of the Chargers to begin the season this year.
Hillsdale’s 2018 – 19 season ended in March earlier this year, when the Chargers fell to the eventual G‑MAC tournament champion Walsh Cavaliers by two points in the tournament semifinal. Two years ago, the Chargers tied for fifth in the regular season conference standings but made an improbable run to win the G‑MAC tournament and clinch a berth in the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Both of the Chargers’ previous two teams featured starters Allie Dewire at guard and Makenna Ott and Brittany Gray at the forward position. The trio has since graduated after last season, so this year’s team will feature some different players stepping up into more prominent roles.
“We lost some good players and gained some good players. It’ll be a process. We’ll learn a lot about ourselves,” head coach Matt Fritsche said. “But instead of trying to replace players, we’re just trying to be the best version of ourselves.”
In an exhibition game against Morehead State University in Kentucky on Friday night, the Chargers’ starting five featured senior center Julia Wacker, senior guard Sydney Anderson, junior guard Jaycie Burger, sophomore guard Grace Touchette, and freshman guard Courtney Krol. Among those five, only Burger was a regular starter last season for the Chargers.
“The ball moves at a much higher pace this year than it did a year ago,” Fritsche said of this year’s four-guard offense. “We’ve lost some individual playmaking, but we’ve gained in ball movement.”
Krol is a transfer from DePaul University this season, and has four years of eligibility in a Hillsdale uniform. She scored 12 points in the Chargers’ 77 – 68 exhibition loss to Morehead State. Touchette led the scoring with 21 points, and Anderson scored 10. Sophomore guard Lauren Daffenberg, one of the team’s most lethal three-point shooters last season, came off the bench to score 12 points.
Fritsche said Daffenberg could be in the mix for a starting spot at some point this season, but with five guards competing for four starting positions, one will be left out of the starting lineup at any given game. Still, Daffenberg was on the floor for 29 minutes in Friday’s exhibition and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game coming off the bench last season.
Fritsche figures to tap into his bench depth again this season, especially with a seven-member freshman class. After Krol, freshman forward Sydney Mills came off the bench to play 18 minutes against Morehead State. Junior forward Amaka Chikwe, who started 25 of the team’s 30 games last year, came off the bench for 17 minutes and will again be a big part of the team’s game plan on both ends of the floor.
After this weekend’s pair of home games, the Chargers will be on the road until mid-December. They finish November with five non-conference games, and begin G‑MAC play on Dec. 5 at Alderson Broaddus University. They also play Ohio Valley University on the road before hosting the University of Findlay for their conference home opener on Dec. 14.