Spec­tators watch the vol­leyball team in person for the first time since COVID-19. | Hannah Cote

For the fourth year in a row, the Chargers have come out as cham­pions of the G‑MAC regular season, and are now ranked as the top-seed of the playoffs. 

Before earning the title, the team hit the road to compete against Cedarville Uni­versity and Ohio Valley Uni­versity, and both teams put up a good fight against the No. 5 ranked Chargers. After a tough loss against Gannon, the Chargers were eager to take back a victory. They pulled through against Cedarville in a 3 – 1 win on March 5. The next day, they swept Ohio Valley in three sets to receive the G‑MAC title. 

“After the Gannon match I think everyone took some time to do a bit of reflecting on them­selves as a player and on the team as a whole,” senior and middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen said. “Last week in practice we all worked hard on taking those things and really putting them into practice.”

After winning the regular season title, the team was eager to get back to work and focus on the upcoming G‑MAC tournament. 

“We allowed our­selves to be excited about it the day we won but we knew once we got to Monday we still had work to do in order to win the post­season tour­nament, instead of just the regular season con­ference title,” junior and outside hitter Karoline Shelton said. 

Head coach Chris Gravel also said that the team would need to invest hard work as the playoffs begin. 

“The real work comes when it’s in playoff time and every match is super hard because it’s the playoffs,” Gravel said. “Everyone’s just playing for their lives. It doesn’t matter what seed you are. All the other teams just want to give up a good fight.”

Ever since winning the G‑MAC regular season title, the Chargers were named as the top-seed in the playoffs and will be hosting all of the tour­nament matches, including yesterday’s quar­ter­final match against Ursuline College. 

“Post-season is such a fun time since all the teams that you are playing at this point have earned their spot in the tour­nament,” Shelton said. “The level of play is nor­mally higher since everyone is trying to bring energy to try to keep their team advancing.”

The team fought hard against Ursuline, and once again swept their opponent in three sets, this time in 25 – 18, 25 – 22, and 25 – 20

“Ursuline came and put up a fight,” head coach Chris Gravel said. “They’re one of two teams that I feel very much improved this year. And they made us earn our points for the most part. It was a good match.”

Senior setter Lindsey Mertz suf­fered a wrist injury a few weeks ago, but was able to play in the back row of the quarterfinals. 

“I think everyone including me was very excited for the quar­ter­final,” Mertz said. “Some nerves do kick in espe­cially being in a tour­nament that is single elim­i­nation. It was nice to win but now we have to focus on Cedarville.”

Though the team has been regular season cham­pions the past three years, Mertz echoed the sen­timent that the team must still work hard in practice each day. 

“There are some great teams in our con­ference this year so to be cham­pions this year was very exciting,” Mertz said. “We cel­e­brated some after the game but it didn’t last long since we have the G‑MAC tour­nament already starting with some tough games this weekend.”

Hillsdale hasn’t lost a con­ference match since joining the G‑MAC in 2017, and if the Chargers advance to the finals, they could win their fourth straight G‑MAC championship. 

“Going into this weekend we all have a sense of excitement,” Shelton said. “We’re all so grateful that we have the oppor­tunity to host another con­ference tour­nament. There might be some nerves but I think that all goes away once we step onto the court.”

Next up, the team will compete against Cedarville Uni­versity on Friday, March 12, at 5 p.m. If the Chargers win, they will advance to the finals on Sat­urday, March 13. 

“We’re hoping that hard work pays off, “Gravel said. “We want to put it to good use, come together as a group, and be selfless in our approach. I think we’ll be okay.”