The Charger volleyball team kept up its strong early-season play with an impressive and important win in its home opener Thursday night.
Hillsdale, ranked 19th in NCAA Division II, played well when it counted the most in recording a 3-0 win over Ashland University at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. Bpth teams stand at 4-1 on the season as the first full day of tournament play begins Friday morning.
Last year, Ashland defeated Hillsdale twice, early in the season and at the Midwest Regional Crossover, and those wins were key to the Eagles receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament. But in the Chargers' home opener, they turned the tables on their longtime rivals, playing at just high enough of a level to stay in control of the flow of the match throughout.
Hillsdale won the sets by scores of 25-19, 25-20 and 25-22 en route to handing the Eagles their first loss of the season.
Junior Maddie Clark helped get the Chargers off to a strong start in the opening set, generating 6 kills and 6 digs while playing with activity and strength. Hillsdale quickly wiped out an early 4-0 deficit to decisively win the opening set.
The Chargers didn't put together big leads in either of the final two sets, but showed maturity and consistency, bouncing back after Ashland would score off long rallies. Junior setter Lindsey Mertz knew who to go to when the team needed points the most, and that was junior middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen.
Van Wienen, the national Division II Player of the Week, led all players with 14 kills, adding a .323 hitting percentage to a dominating performance. She separated herself as the most significant offensive factor in the match.
Senior Emily Lachmann came off the bench and gave Hillsdale a huge lift, putting down 11 kills with a .346 hitting percentage. Her quickness and strength also stood out in giving Hillsdale another reliable offensive weapon.
Sophomore Karoline Shelton displayed improvement in all aspects of her game, getting 11 kills in the win.
Mertz delivered 43 assists while senior libero Taylor Wiese made her 2019 debut in typical steady fashion with a team-high 23 digs in the three-set win.
PHOTO: Victoria Addis