In a marathon of a match that lasted more than two hours, the Hillsdale College volleyball team found a way to come away from Malone University with a hard-fought 3-1 Friday night in Canton. The win, Hillsdale's 17th in a row in Great Midwest Athletic Conference play, moves the team to 5-3 overall and 2-0 in conference.
The set scores were exactly indicative of how tightly this match was played. Hillsdale grabbed a 2-0 lead with wins of 25-21 and 25-22 in the first two sets. The Pioneers came back to post a 25-22 win in set 3. Set 4 needed extra points, but the Chargers prevailed 27-25.
The final point of the match represented a nice moment for one of the team's most respected players. Senior setter Taylor Bennett, playing in a defensive role, served the match-winning point with a service ace to wrap up the victory.
Two of the team's other players reached, or came close to career statistical highs in this intense, lengthy match. Junior libero Taylor Wiese had 28 digs, third-most she's ever had in a match. She was one of four players to reach double digits in digs, being joined by Paige VanderWall (15), sophomore Madie Schider (12) and sophomore Lindsey Mertz (12).
VanderWall tied her single-match career-high with 22 kills in the Charger victory. She had a .308 hitting percentage, and produced points from all over the court for Hillsdale. She was accurate from the back row and obliterated the Pioneer defense when the ball came her way. This was VanderWall's fifth match already this season with 15 or more kills in a match.
VanderWall, and fellow senior Kara Vyletel (15 kills) had to earn every one of their points, because the Pioneers were digging balls up that, for a moment, appeared to be sure Charger points time and time again. Malone found deep corners on a number of their attack attempts, and played with great effort through all four sets.
Both teams were scrappy on defense, and as a result, neither hit better than .200 for the match, though Hillsdale held a slim edge in that category, .196-.165.
Mertz had 49 assists and 4 block assists for the Chargers, who return home Tuesday to face Cedarville University.
Photo: MaryKate Drews