Offense can generate the ooh's and aahh's from the crowd in volleyball. But defense is often just as important to secure victories. Friday night, the Charger defense was locked in.
Hillsdale's players got it done in the front and back rows defensively as the team swept Cedarville University 3-0 in a key Great Midwest Athletic Conference road contest in Ohio. The win, coupled with Findlay's win over Tiffin, allowed the Chargers to take over sole possession of first place in the West Division with an 8-0 conference mark.
Junior libero Taylor Wiese covered the court brilliantly from the back row and had a career-high 31 digs. She came into the match ranked second in the G-MAC, averaging more than 5 digs per set. She doubled that in this one, averaging 10.3 digs per set, also a single-match career high. This was the third 30-dig match of her career, but the first done in three sets, a rare achievement in the sport.
With Wiese providing outstanding support in the back, the team's front row players stepped up in a big way. Hillsdale generated six total blocks as a team in the first set alone, helping it cruise to a 25-8 win to open the match. The Chargers won sets 2 and 3 by scores of 25-23 and 25-19, respectively.
Sophomore middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen returned to the lineup and made a big impact on the match with 7 kills, 1 solo block and 4 block assists. Junior middle hitter Hannah Gates had 5 block assists in another strong game at the net. Add in a season-high 4 block assists from sophomore setter Lindsey Mertz, and it's easy to see how Hillsdale's superior defense turned into offense.
The Chargers held the Yellow Jackets to a team hitting percentage of .030 in the match. Only one team - No. 2-ranked Concordia-St. Paul - has hit better than .220 in any given match against the Chargers this season.
Hillsdale generated 37 kills as a team in the match, not a high figure, but it was enough considering the team's productive blocking, 26 hitting errors and 7 service errors committed by Cedarville.
Senior Kara Vyletel had kills in 4 of the match's final 5 points, finishing strong as she had a team-high 9 kills in the match. Freshman Karoline SHelton had 4 of her 6 kills in the first set and hit .385 overall.
Mertz had 27 assists and 7 digs, and senior Paige VanderWall added 6 kills, 12 digs and 2 block assists for Hillsdale in the win.
PHOTO: MaryKate Drews