Nothing like playing the best to find out where your team is to open a season.
And the Hillsdale College volleyball team learned it's in a pretty good place after Thursday night's season opener.
The Chargers fell in four sets to defending Division II national champion Concordia-St. Paul in the opening match of the Ferris State University Tournament. The Golden Bears, the preseason number one team in the country, won the first two sets by the slimmest of margins, 25-23 and 27-25. Hillsdale came back with an impressive showing in the third set, winning 25-19. CSP rebounded to close out the match with a 25-20 win in set four.
Concordia-St. Paul has won eight national championships since its dominant run began in the 2007 season, and rarely gets pushed by any team it encounters. Last year, the Golden Bears swept all three matches it played in the Elite Eight by 3-0 scores en route to winning the title. But Hillsdale proved to be a more-than-worthy opponent in each team's first match of the new year.
The Chargers hit .302 as a team, a number rarely achieved against the Golden Bears, and several of Hillsdale's top players performed at a spectacularly high level against arguably the best team it will see all season.
Senior right-side hitter Paige VanderWall was beyond impressive, registering a team-high 18 kills against just one error, good for a .405 hitting percentage. She was one of three players (Hannah Gates and Allyssa Van Wienen) who had a hitting percentage of better than .400 against Division II's top team. VanderWall was also a stand out defensively with 12 kills, starting out her final season with a high double-double.
Van Wienen had 15 kills with a .464 hitting percentage, making just two hitting errors in 28 attempts. Gates put down some powerful kills on her way to 7, while hitting .500 in the match.
Sophomore setter Lindsey Mertz accounted for 50 assists and 11 digs and played a big part in the team running a smooth offense for most of the match.
Defensively, junior libero Taylor Wiese played up to her usual high standard with 22 digs, calmly digging up some powerful attacks from the Golden Bears. Sophomore Madie Schider had 10 digs and got stronger as the match wore on.