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

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.