December 1, 2012 - The roles were reversed on Saturday afternoon.
One year ago, the Hillsdale College volleyball team, led by strong seniors and a deafening home crowd, won the NCAA Midwest Regional Volleyball Championship over the University of Indianapolis. However this year, UIndy was the home team, and was led by some excellent senior players and had the home crowd behind it, and walked away with the regional trophy.
The Greyhounds will move on to the NCAA Elite Eight next week after a 3-0 win over the Chargers Saturday at the Ruth Lily Center on the campus of the University of Indianapolis. Hillsdale's season ends with a 17-16 overall record.
The 3-0 score is by definition a sweep, but this match was far more closely played than a 3-0 score would indicate. Hillsdale traded punches evenly with Indianapolis throughout the majority of all three sets. But the Greyhounds were able to close with scoring runs in each set to win going away, none more dramatic or decisive as the third set.
Hillsdale battled its way to a 23-19 lead in set 3 and were in position to push the match to a fourth set. But the Gryhounds forced Charger hitting errors and wound up scoring the final six straight points of the set and the match.
The first set saw the Greyhound clinging to an 18-17 lead, only to finish the set on a 7-1 run to take it 25-18.
The second set was knotted up at 13-13 after kills by the dynamic freshman duo of Emily Wolfert and Haylee Booms. But Indianapolis ended up going on a 12-2 run to close out the set. UIndy recorded two of its 10 team blocks in that set-ending run, and ended up outblocking Hillsdale 10-6 in the match.
Wolfert concluded a brilliant NCAA Tournament weekend with a team-high 11 kills for the Chargers. She set new career-highs in kills in both the regional quarterfinals and semifinals, and finished the tournament with 51 kills, by far the highest three-match total of this season. Wolfert was named to the Midwest Region All-Tournament Team, along with senior Lauren Grover and junior Caitlin Kopmeyer. Wolfert is just one reason why the future looks blindingly bright for this young Charger squad.
Grover added nine kills and three block assists, and concludes a remarkable career that saw her win three GLIAC tournament championships. During her career, she led Hillsdale to eight NCAA Tournament wins. In their entire volleyball history before 2009 (Grover's freshman season), the Chargers won a grand total of one NCAA Tournament match, coming in 2006. Grover's leadership and winning legacy will be long-remembered around campus.
Kopmeyer had seven kills and eight digs, and her experience in these high-stakes matches was evident throughout the regional weekend. Her back-row play and passing are just as important to this team as her offense, and she had her most award-laden season in 2012, adding First-Team All-GLIAC honors to her all-tournament team selection.
Junior Bekah Draves stepped up in a big way in the third set for the Chargers and finished with six kills. Sophomore Bailey Lindner led Hillsdale with 12 digs, while sophomore Alexis Waugh handed out 28 assists. Waugh in particular, also played her finest volleyball of the season during this regional tournament.
Hillsdale has now finished with a winning record 10 consecutive seasons and loses just one player to graduation as the 2013 season appears on the horizon.
Photo by Allison Hetrick