It's never easy in postseason play, but that's when a team's seniors step forward to help a team advance.
Enter Jackie Langer, the Chargers' gifted and tough outside hitter.
Langer set a team season-high with 22 kills to lead Hillsdale to a tense 3-1 win over the Walsh University Cavaliers in the 2017 Great Midwest Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal. The win advances the Chargers to Saturday's championship match against Findlay, which begins at 4 p.m. in the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena.
When Hillsdale really needed points, especially in the fourth set, Langer was the go-to option and did she ever deliver. Her 22 kills are the most she's had since arriving at Hillsdale in the Fall of 2016, and she attacked the ball with authority, accuracy and tenacity all night. Hillsdale was able to run consistent plays for Langer that Walsh was unable to defend.
Hillsdale dominated the opening set, winning 25-10 in one-sided fashion. The second set was tighter, with Hillsdale winning 25-18, but the Cavaliers were clearly improving their play. In set 3, Walsh came up with some unbelievable defensive plays, and got some bounces to go its way in beating Hillsdale 25-23. But the Chargers responded in the fourth set, pulling away late for a 25-15 victory, clinching their 20th consecutive win.
Statistically, Hillsdale held huge advantages over Walsh across the board. The Chargers had 68 kills as a team compared to 33 for the Cavaliers. Hillsdale also held an 81-58 edge in digs as a team. But Walsh was tenacious throughout and passed off serves very well especially in the third set. They were able to get in-system more often and made it difficult for the Chargers, especially on long volleys, which seemed to go Walsh's way more often than not in that set.
Four players had 10 or more kills for Hillsdale, with sophomore middle hitter Hannah Gates contributing a career-high 12 kills with 5 block assists. Gates was powerful at the net and aggressive at going after the ball.
Junior Paige VanderWall had 12 kills and 15 digs in a great all-around effort. Junior Kara Vyletel had 13 kills and 6 digs and hit .256 in the match. Hillsdale held Walsh to a .085 hitting percentage while hitting .284 on its own.
Freshman setter Lindsey Mertz handed out 55 assists with 11 digs and 3 kills. Sophomore Taylor Wiese had 22 digs, as four players cracked double figures in that category. Langer added 14 digs to her season-high in kills.