Facing one of the toughest slates of opening-weekend opponents of anyone in the country, the Hillsdale College volleyball team played with heart, balance and toughness, even in its one slim defeat among its first four matches.
In Saturday's opener in Lakeland, Florida, Hillsdale clawed back from an 0-2 deficit to tie the match at 2, only to fall to 17th-ranked Central Missouri 3-2, falling 15-10 in set five. In the closing match, Hillsdale cruised to a 3-0 sweep of Indiana (PA), allowing a grand total of 32 points in picking up its third win.
The Chargers will be home next weekend, hosting a tournament of its own, starting with a Thursday night match versus Ashland.
Central Missouri, always a nationally ranked program, won the first two sets from the Chargers 25-16 and 25-20. The Jennies displayed a big, strong lineup that could put the ball away.
Hillsdale counterpunched and put together two outstanding sets, winning 25-18 and 25-16 in sets three and four. Central Missouri took an early lead and withstood all Hillsdale rallies in set five.
Junior libero Madie Schider set a career-high in digs for the second straight match, notching 30 digs, giving her the status of joining the AVCA's 30-dig club. She led a team effort that saw it record 93 digs for the second consecutive match. Three other players - Audrey Riley (13), Lindsey Mertz (12) and Karoline Shelton (18) - had double digits in digs in this exhausting and compelling match.
In the second match of the day against the Crimson Hawks, the Chargers wasted little time in establishing dominance, winning by scores of 25-9, 25-10 and 25-13. Hillsdale had a .388 hitting percentage as a team compared to .011 for Indiana.
Shelton recorded another double-double, picking up 10 kills and 14 digs with a .455 hitting percentage. Her 10 kills with 0 errors represent a career-high for kills in a match without an error.
Junior Maddie Clark put together a strong match with 11 kills, a .370 hitting percentage, and 8 digs. Sophomore Emma Noskey, playing in her home state of Florida, set a new career-high with 7 kills and a .538 hitting percentage.
Mertz had 34 assists, 10 digs and 4 service aces in a fine all-around effort.
PHOTO: Todd Lancaster