It wasn't easy, but history was made Tuesday night.
The Hillsdale College volleyball team got severely tested by #8 seed Malone in a G-MAC Tournament quarterfinal match. But the Chargers finished strong, winning the match 3-1 and advancing to Friday evening's semifinal.
The semifinal and final rounds of the tournament will be held at Hillsdale College for the third consecutive year.
The win was also the 500th career victory for head coach Chris Gravel. He was presented with gifts and was serenated with a song by his team after the match, extending the afterglow of a hard-fought postseason victory. Gravel is in his 24th season leading the Hillsdale College volleyball program, and this win comes neaqrly four years to the day from his 400th career win.
Hillsdale won the first two sets by scores of 28-26 and 25-19. The Pioneers came back with a 25-23 win in the third set and held a 20-18 lead in the fourth set. But the Chargers scored 7 of the final 8 points in the fourth set to win 25-21. Hillsdale, 24-3 on the season, will face the winner of the Kentucky Wesleyan-Cedarville match.
Senior middle hitter Hannah Gates heated up in the fourth set and delivered the match-ending kill in emphatic fashion. She had 7 kills in the fourth set alone, giving her 12 for the match. It was the classic case of a senior stepping up in a postseason setting, against a stubborn opponent, and delivering when her team needed her most.
The Pioneers played an impressive match in every facet, playing great defense, passing effectively and testing the Hillsdale defense throughout. Malone led for much of the first set until the Chargers survived a set point and scored the final 3 to get the win.
Hillsdale carried that momentum over into the second set, taking a quick 5-0 lead, going on for a 25-19 win.
In the third set Malone took the early lead and survived a late Hillsdale rally to post a 25-23 win.
The Chargers were tested in every way even though the fourth set, but the players did a great job of responding to Malone's high level of play.
Junior middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen does most of her damage from the front row. But she served back-to-back service aces after Hillsdale trailed 20-18 in set 4 that clearly put momentum in the Chargers' corner. She finished the match with 16 kills and a .457 hitting percentage. When she got a good set, it was a kill just about every time.
PHOTO: Victoria Addis