A basic truth of the sport of volleyball is, one's chances of winning increase substantially when an opponent's attacks never have a chance to touch the floor on one's side.
Such was the game plan and execution of the No. 19 Hillsdale College volleyball team Friday night.
Led by dominating matches from middle hitters Hannah Gates and Allyssa Van Wienen, and another terrific performance from Emily Lachmann, the Chargers dispatched Northwood University 3-1 at the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena, conlcuding the first full day of play at the Hillsdale Tournament Friday night.
The win makes the Chargers, winners of three straight, 5-1 on the season.
Hillsdale was in full control during a 25-18 win in the opening set. That control took a new form as the team sprinted out to a 14-1 lead in set 2, emerging with a 25-10 victory. But Northwood, who played hard and tough all night, looked impressive offensively and defensively in notching a 25-23 win in the third set. The Timberwolves dug deep, showed heart and attacked the Charger defense with power and energy throughout that third set, extending the match. Northwood had a .303 hitting percentage in the third set, easily its best effort of the night.
But Hillsdale went to what it does best, and shut down the Timberwolves in set 4 to the tune of 25-12.
Injuries had robbed Hillsdale some of its preferred depth among its frontcourt rotation entering this match, but who needs depth when you have the level of production Gates and Van Wienen turned in? Gates finished with 11 kills, just one off her single-match career-high in the victory. She was particularly adept at slamming home overpasses from the Northwood side and had a nice .381 hitting percentage to boot.
Some players go to a new level. Van Wienen is on another planet right now. She recorded 16 kills with no errors on 23 attempts, for an out-of-this-world .696 hitting percentage. But that wasn't enough. She also collected 7 solo blocks and 4 block assists in the match, giving her a total of 11, tied for the second-most in a match in G-MAC history. Van Wienen combined strong net positioning and perfect fundamentals at predicting when Northwood would look to attack the middle, and her timing was impeccable throughout the night.
Lachmann tied a single-match career-high with 12 kills to go along with 9 digs. She was active in both the front and back rows and played with inspired confidence and power, adding a valuable dimension to the Charger offense.
Freshman Audrey Riley was a standout during Hillsdale's 14-1 run to open the second set, delivering three service aces while showing good athleticism all over the court.
Junior setter Lindsey Mertz once again delivered consistently with 40 assists and 7 digs. Senior Taylor Wiese and junior Madie Schider combined for 30 digs, with Wiese's 17 leading the team. Sophomore Karoline Shelton picked up 6 kills and 7 digs for the Chargers.
PHOTO: Victoria Addis