It couldn't have been any closer than it was. Nor could it have been more heartbreaking.
The Hillsdale College volleyball team saw one of its best seasons ever come to an end Thursday afternoon, in a 3-2 loss to the University of Findlay in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinal, held at Lewis University. The Chargers' season ends with a 28-4 record.
Findlay went up 1-0 in the match with a 25-22 win in set 1. The Chargers stormed back, playing dominant at times in winning sets 2 and 3 25-16 and 25-22. But Findlay rebounded impressively in set 4, prevailing 25-22. The requisite 15 points in set 5 wasn't enough to decide this one, but it was the Oilers who pulled out a 16-14 win in set 5, clinching the match.
Both teams played terrific defense, but Findlay's front-row defense frustrated the Chargers, keeping them at a low hitting percentage. Findlay was led by its two best hitters, Amanda Winner and Izzy Murphy, who combined for 38 kills and just 4 errors.
Hillsdale stayed in the match thanks in part to its big advantage in serving. But Findlay hit .250 as a team compared to .207 for the Chargers, and that was the ultimate difference in the match.
Junior Kara Vyletel stepped up and had a big match for Hillsdale who had 19 kills and 11 digs. Junior Paige VanderWall had 3 of her 9 kills early in the fifth set, while freshman Allyssa Van Wienen had 12 kills and 3 blocks.
Senior Jackie Langer, playing the final match of a distinguished career, played with her characteristic heart and effort with 11 kills and 18 digs.