For the third consecutive season, the Hillsdale College volleyball team will play for a conference tournament championship on its home court.
The Chargers rolled past Kentucky Wesleyan 3-0 in Friday night's first semifinal match, held at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena. Hillsdale, ranked 11th in the nation and 25-3 overall, will face the winner of the Walsh-Tiffin semifinal at 5:00 Saturday night.
From the opening moments of the match, the Chargers showed laser-like focus and ferocious execution, grabbing a big early lead in two of the three sets. Hillsdale won by scores of 25-14, 25-21 and 25-9.
Particularly locked in was junior setter Lindsey Mertz, who served one of the best matches of her career. She was the server during a match-opening 6-0 run for Hillsdale in set one, and delivered a handful of aces during a 10-0 run to open set three.
Mertz showed why she is a three-time First-Team All-Conference setter, finishing with 36 assists, 2 aces and 5 digs in the semifinal victory.
Sophomore Karoline Shelton was active and powerful from her outside hitter position, recording a double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs to go along with 2 block assists.
The Charger block was a big factor in that first set, with freshman Megan Kolp recording 5 block assists in the first set alone. Senior Hannah Gates was also a wall at the net, finishing with 6 kills, a .312 hitting percentage and 4 block assists. Emily Lachmann was also on target offensively with 10 kills for the Chargers, giving them a crucial, productive option on the outside.
Senior Taylor Wiese made a bit of history in this match. With her 13th dig, coming late in the second set, she became Hillsdale's all-time leader in digs. Her 19 for the match give her 2,141 for her career, breaking the old record of 2,134, held by Megan Howard, who played her entire career in the 30-point rally score era from 2004-07.
Wiese's running mate in the back row, Madie Schider, also played a superb defensive match with 7 digs, many of them coming off fast attacks by the Panthers.
PHOTO: Haley Strack