Hillsdale sweeps Wheeling Jesuit
Chargers advance to national semifinal for first time
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Hillsdale's first match in the month of December in school history was one to remember for the Chargers.
Playing a tough, gritty match, Hillsdale advanced to its first NCAA semifinal with a 3-0 win against Wheeling Jesuit on Thursday at Coussoulis Arena.
The Chargers won the sets by scores of 25-20, 27-25 and 25-23. The match was as tightly played as the scores indicated.
The Cardinals came into the match with an excellent defensive game plan, and forced Hillsdale into several long rallies, particularly in the second and third sets of the match.
Playing in the national quarterfinals for the first time, some jitters for both teams were understandable, but the Chargers found a way to play through and score points when they absolutely needed them. Leading the way was All-American middle hitter Clara Leutheuser, who set the tone for the match with a dominant performance in the first set.
Leutheuser, who has earned All-American honors three times in her distinguished career, had five kills on five attempts with three blocks in the opening set. She used her height, jumping ability, anticipation and some spot-on sets from setter Apryl Schmucker to spring Hillsdale to a 25-20 win in the first set.
Four kills from junior middle hitter Lauren Grover also played a big part in the Chargers' opening-set win.
But in the second and third sets, the Cardinals anticipated Hillsdale's offense more effectively, and turned Hillsdale's block against itself. The Chargers maintained the lead most of the way in the second set, but Wheeling-Jesuit used a close call on a tipped ball to force a tie score 24-24.
Thanks in part to Hillsdale's high block, the Cardinals committed two hitting errors in the set's final three points to clinch a 2-0 lead for Hillsdale.
The Cardinals cranked up the defense another notch in the third set, and held a three-point lead on a couple of occasions.
A 6-0 run by Hillsdale turned a 13-10 deficit into a 16-13 lead, and momentum seemed to be on the Chargers' side for good. Senior Ashlee Crowder had two kills and two block assists in the 6-0 run.
But the Cardinals rallied yet again, tying the match six different times, even taking a 23-22 lead at one point.
That's where Hillsdale's mental strength and resiliency kicked in. Crowder's 15th kill of the match tied it up at 23 apiece. Another attack error by the Cardinals gave the Chargers a one-point lead, and a cross-court kill by sophomore Caitlin Komeyer finished the job.
Crowder led the team with 15 kills, and she had four digs and four block assists.
Leutheuser enjoyed a huge match with 10 kills and six block assists. She seemed to be in the middle of all the momemtum-building rallies the Chargers had throughout the night.
Kopmeyer grew stronger and stronger through the match, and finished with 10 kills, eight digs and two service aces.
Defensively, senior libero Morgan Podkul did an excellent job on the back end of the court for Hillsdale, picking up 15 digs to lead the team. Senior setter Apryl Schmucker had 36 assists and five digs for Hillsdale.
Grover was a big factor in the first and third sets of the match, where she picked up all eight of her kills and a solo block.