Nov. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Hillsdale

- This is not the time of year for teams to worry about earning style points. A win is a win, and the Hillsdale College volleyball team is advancing in the NCAA regional tournament for the second year in a row.

Playing in front of more than 500 loud fans at its home court of Jesse Philips Arena, the Chargers defeated the University of Southern Indiana 3-0 Friday night in the Midwest Regional Quarterfinal Match. news story image

The Chargers, 29-1 on the season, now advance to the semifinals, where they will face the Univesity of Indianapolis in the second match Saturday, starting at 7 p.m.

Despite the 3-0 match score, this was a struggle for Hillsdale at times, against a well-coached and fundamentally sound Eagles team. USI didn't make a lot of mistakes, and forced the Chargers to the edge of their abilities. Hillsdale won the first and third sets by identical 28-26 scores, rallying from set point on multiple occasions in both sets. Hillsdale whipped USI 25-16 in the second set.

A service ace by Danielle LaGrange gave the Eagles a 24-22 lead in the first set. But Hillsdale refocused after a timeout, and scored two straight points to tie it up. USI also held a 26-25 lead, only to see the Chargers finish off the set with three straight points. The run was ended by junior middle hitter Clara Leutheuser, who finished off a dominant opening set with her seventh kill.

Hillsdale used the momentum built from the end of the first set to take charge in the second, jumping out to a 7-2 lead in the opening moments of the second set. USI would get no closer for the remainder of the set.

In set three, USI played with the desperation of a team facing the end of its season. The Eagles took an 11-7 lead, only to see Hillsdale come back with six straight points, three in a row coming off the swings of freshman outside hitter Caitlin Kopmeyer.

A kill by LaGrange put the Eagles on the verge of winning the third set, but Hillsdale came back with a match-ending 4-1 run to advance to Saturday's regional semifinal. In keeping with Hillsdale's pattern throughout the season, three different players recorded kills among the four points the Chargers had in that 4-1 run.

Leutheuser was superb in the match for Hillsdale, leading all players with 16 kills and a .536 attack percentage. She had seven kills on nine attempts in an incredible opening set to the match.

Hitters Ashlee Crowder and Amanda Bigney each had eight kills for Hillsdale, while Kopmeyer contributed 10 kills, along with five digs. Sophomore Lauren Grover had six kills and five block assists, while junior Apryl Schmucker handed out 41 assists for the team.

Defensively, Sydney Dow led Hillsdale with 16 digs, and provided terrific passing and court coverage for Hillsdale. Junior Morgan Podkul had 11 digs.

Hillsdale advances in the NCAA regional tournament for the third time since 2006, though the Chargers have never won a regional semifinal match. This year's opponent - Indianapolis - is the same team that ended Hillsdale's 2009 season in the regional semifinals. The Greyhounds won a classic 3-2 match over Hillsdale. A big difference is that match was played on Indianapolis' home court, while this year, the Chargers will enjoy the home court advantage.