The Hillsdale College women’s volleyball team is headed into a busy season beginning on Friday, Sept. 3 with a match up at Ferris State University. As the world slowly begins to open its doors back into everyday life, these Chargers are up at the net blocking any sort of obstacle in their path on the way to a successful season.
Last season presented limited in-person attendance and shifted the season into an abnormal one. With first-team All-G-MAC honors for the fourth year in a row, senior Allyssa Van Wienen has the perspective of a seasoned player with the high hopes of a newcomer for the season ahead.
“I think we are all just excited to have a regular season in general again,” Van Wienen said. “Obviously, there are still some unknowns about the upcoming season and plenty of things that are out of control, so we are all taking it day by day.”
The “day by day” consists of a three to four hour time commitment daily. From practices to scrimmages to workouts and team-building, the Chargers have been working hard all preseason.
Headed into the fall season, the Chargers have a larger team of 19 players in total. Eight of those players are freshmen, covering every position from libero to middle hitter. With three fifth-year seniors and the rest sophomores and juniors, the group is a conglomeration of seasoned G‑MAC Players of the Year and newcomers ready to face the challenge that lies ahead.
One of these freshmen, Lauren Passaglia, is part of the few classes of graduated high school students in recent years who are entering college without the full scope of the normal high school experience and subsequently the normal high school athletic season.
“My high school basically had two graduations. You could sign up for one of two time slots,” Passaglia said. “It’s weird because I’ve gone to school with all of these kids since kindergarten and I only got to graduate with half. College will definitely take some adjustment.”
Shifting into the typical college schedule with demanding team obligations has forced Passaglia to learn how to best manage her time and succeed. With the help of the seniors and the wide variety of students on the team, Passaglia has been welcomed into a unique support system that goes beyond the court.
The lead of this support team is head coach Chris Gravel. Gravel is heading into his 26th season of coaching. His confidence in his team is evident: leaning back in his chair and cracking jokes as he describes the goals moving forward.
“Stay healthy, is one,” Gravel said. “Two is to continue to get better.”
As the season’s formal beginning creeps near, confidence in the Chargers and their success is not limited to Gravel or the teammates themselves. The G‑MAC preseason poll presented by Under Armor revealed that Hillsdale is predicted to win the North Division title this season. Moreso, the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Coaches Poll places Hillsdale as the thirteenth in the nation.
The night cap on the preseason was this past Saturday, where the Chargers hosted a scrimmage.
“Saturday’s scrimmage went well,” Van Wienen said. “There were still definitely some kinks that needed to be worked out, but being able to play against a different team gave us a chance to work through some of those things and honestly just gave us all a little confidence heading into the start of the season.”