Even without a fall season, the Hillsdale College Volleyball team continues intense training at Hayden Park and in the weight room with a special focus on mental toughness.
The team would typically be in its regular season, but now the Chargers are having their “non-traditional” season in place of the fall season, where they are allowed to practice for a total of 45 days and compete four weekends. Their regular season will resume in the spring.
“We’re training and actually able to push the team harder than if they were in season because we don’t have to worry about recovery for games,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “Right now they’re going through some pretty intense physical and mental training that we’re looking to build into the whole of the winter season.”
The team will be able to compete in February alongside the basketball teams, said Gravel.
“It was disappointing because we were all ready to start and we were projected to do really well,” Gravel said. “But at the same time, we’d like to focus on what’s controllable. And whether we play or not, that’s not controllable so right now we’re staying focused on what we can control.”
Based on previous years’ success and key returning players, the volleyball team had positive projections for the season, and possibly even a national title win, said Gravel.
“We’ve won the G‑MAC championship the last three years, and no team has ever won four years in a row,” Gravel said. “We are looking to try and do that this year.”
Although the Chargers aren’t able to officially compete, they are working to strengthen their physical and mental capacities.
“The larger goals are to win four championships in a row, but actually that’s not the main focus,” Gravel said. “We really want to see how good we can actually be. We’re really focused on how far we can push the mind and the body to reach limits that we didn’t think were possible, whether it be a single workout, or whether it be a simple single competition.”
Senior Lindsay Mertz said the ability to train now will better prepare the team for their spring season.
“Obviously, we wish we could be playing in the fall, but our team has kept a positive attitude and continues to work hard every day,” Mertz said. “We can use this setback as a strength once given the opportunity to take the floor again. We hope to become more resilient, mentally tougher, and physically stronger than our opponents by working toward the goals we have set for ourselves in the coming weeks and months.”
The Chargers’ lack of competition has not gotten in the way of their work ethic.
“We are still just getting back into the swing of things, but everyone is working extremely hard,” senior Allyssa Van Wienen said. “The passion everyone has for the sport is especially evident now after taking so much time off. It’s clear that we all missed each other as much as we missed playing with each other and the energy in the gym has been so great these first few weeks back.”
The team is ready to train, and now they have time to better transition three new freshmen since six seniors graduated last year, said Gravel.
“There’s been a big difference without the seniors,” Gravel said. “Especially because we really didn’t get to say a proper goodbye after spring break. It’s always tough when you lose the seniors but there’s always work to be done so we focus on it.”
The new freshmen came into the season in shape and ready to grow, said Van Wienen.
“The seniors last year brought a lot of energy to the team, so that is something we will have to work to maintain this upcoming year,” Van Wienen said.
Although the regular season was pushed back, the volleyball team can ultimately use this time to lock in on intense training in order to succeed in the spring.
“I really hope that we can use this time to zone in on some of the details that we might not have had time to focus if we weren’t given this time off,” Van Wienen said. “I’m also looking forward to the opportunity to really get to know each other off the court, since we won’t be spending as much time traveling this semester, we can really take advantage of the weekends off that we are able to spend together.”