The cruelty of sports is that a great season comes to such a sudden end. Such was the case for the Hillsdale College volleyball team.
A 2018 season, one for the record books, was ended Thursday night in the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Quarterfinals. The Chargers lost 3-1 to host and #1 seed Drury University, ending their season with a 25-7 record.
Hillsdale got off to a very promising start, winning set 1 25-20 while hitting an impressive .314 as a team, led by 10 kills by senior Kara Vyletel. But the Panthers, buoyed by their home crowd, came back to win the final three sets by scores of 25-22, 25-17 and 25-17. Hillsdale was held to hitting percentages under .120 in each of the final two sets while the Panthers finished the match with a .263 hitting percentage.
Vyletel, one of three seniors on the team, played her heart out in her final collegiate match. Her 10 kills in the first set was a season-high for one set. She went on to post 17 kills, hitting .245, bringing to a close one of the finest careers in Charger volleyball history.
Fellow senior Paige VanderWall did everything she could, finishing her career with 15 kills, 15 digs and two service aces, with a .283 hitting percentage. VanderWall still has potential for more honors coming her way, and they would all be well-deserved after a phenomenal 2018 season.
Sophomore setter Lindsey Mertz had 48 assisst, 2 kills and 6 digs. Hillsdale's defense was up to the task of a strong Drury team, with three players registering 15 or more digs. Sophomore Madie Schider stepped up big with 21 digs, while junior libero Taylor Wiese had 20 digs.
PHOTO: Todd Lancaster