Nov. 19, 2009

Courtesy of Hillsdale Athletics

November 19, 2009 - The Revenge Tour made another stop Thursday night for the Hillsdale College volleyball team. Now, the Chargers hope that train won't slow down.

For the third time in its last four matches, Hillsdale defeated a team it lost to during the regular season. Only this time, it came in the first round of the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Tournament.

The Chargers (24-7) advanced to the regional semifinals with a hard-fought 3-2 win over Northern Michigan University Thursday night at the University of Indianapolis.

In a fifth set played well by both teams, Hillsdale came back from an 11-10 deficit to win the deciding set 15-12. It was the second match in a row Hillsdale has won in five sets.

Sophomores Clara Leutheuser and Apryl Schmucker, two of the team's best players on this night, combined for the match-winning block. The regional win was just the second in school history.

Hillsdale will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the winner of the Indianapolis-Michigan Tech match.

The teams traded points in the first part of the fifth set, with tie scores occurring at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 10-10. The Chargers appeared to take control of the set with three straight points to take a 9-6 lead.

But the Wildcats, who played well and hard all night, took an 11-10 lead, and the Chargers were staring at the end of what has been an historic season. However, these players weren't quite finished.

Leutheuser, a dominant force at the net all night, had a kill and a block to turn Hillsdale's one-point deficit into a 12-11 lead. Any shred of momentum in a fifth-set scenario is worth its weight in gold, and the All-GLIAC middle hitter helped put it back on the Hillsdale side of the court.

The Wildcats pulled to within 13-12, when the point of the night occurred. Hillsdale had to make several difficult plays on the ball right at the net, dealing with quick attacks from the Wildcats. But the Chargers eventually got the ball to junior Amanda Bigney, who made a powerful swing at the ball, putting it down on the Wildcats' side for a 14-12 Hillsdale lead. That dramatic point led to the finishing touches by Leutheuser and Schmucker.

Leutheuser finished with 15 kills and six total blocks for Hillsdale. Schmucker came close to yet another triple-double, with nine kills, 41 assists and eight digs. She also contributed four block assists, and was a consistent threat at the net with her decision-making and attacking.

Sophomore Ashlee Crowder led the Chargers with a high double-double of 17 kills and 18 digs. Junior Sydney Dow, the GLIAC Libero of the Year, upped her play as the match went along, and passed extremely well in the fifth set. She led Hillsdale with 21 digs. Bigney had nine kills and five digs, while freshman Lauren Grover and sophomore Amanda Geelhoed combined for eight block assists.

The Chargers pulled out a closely played second set, rallying from a 15-10 deficit to win 25-22. Crowder scored three of the team's final four points in the set.

Hillsdale struggled with its passing in the third set, but did appear to pick up its play in the last few minutes of the set. The Wildcats jumped out to a 21-9 lead in that set, but the Chargers finished the set on an 8-4 run, making the final score 25-17.

Each team had momentum on its side in the fourth set, with the Chargers taking a 5-2 lead, and coming back from a 16-12 deficit to make it a one-point game. But the resilient Wildcats hung on for a 25-21 win in the set.

In the first set, Hillsdale raced out to a 9-3 lead, but fell behind 20-18 as the Wildcats improved their passing and defense. The Chargers rallied to score seven of the last 10 points of the set to win, 25-23.