It takes a special kind of team to respond positively to in-game adversity from a talented opponent.
The 2019 Charger volleyball team is quickly proving itself to be that kind of special.
Hillsdale captured the championship of the fall tournament it hosted at Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena Saturday, defeating Clarion 3-1 and #16 Palm Beach Atlantic 3-2. The Chargers have now won five in a row and stand at 7-1 overall.
Early in the day Saturday, the Chargers suffered their most decisive single-set loss of the season, 25-14, to a Clarion team that figures to be a strong contender for a regional tournament berth in the Atlantic Region. But Hillsdale didn't stay down for long, winning sets 3 and 4 by scores of 25-19 and 25-15, getting stronger as the match wore on.
After having a team hitting percentage of -.028 in the second set, the Chargers rebounded with team hitting percentages of .217 and .481 in the third and fourth sets, respectively. Meanwhile, the hard-hitting Golden Eagles had a team hitting percentage of .000 in the fourth and deciding set.
Junior setter Lindsey Mertz had a strong game in the win over Clarion with 41 assists and 15 digs, staying active throughout long rallies in the match. Junior Allyssa Van Wienen led the team with 15 kills to go with a .400 hitting percentage, while sophomore Karoline Shelton tied her career-high with 13 kills.
Shelton's previous career-high in kills would end up lasting exactly five hours.
In the win over the Sailfish, Shelton was spectacular, sharing the team lead with a career-high 19 kills. She had a .302 hitting percentage, a very high number for someone with 53 attack attempts in a match. Shelton shouldered a big offensive load as the match wore on, and her power proved to be too much for the Sailfish defense to effectively contend with.
Van Wienen matched those 19 kills, hitting .459 in another eye-opening performance.
The first two sets between these nationally ranked foes each ended 25-23, with both teams winning a set. The Chargers rolled past PBA in the third set 25-16, replying to a tight win by the visitors in the second set.
PBA managed to win set 4, also 25-23, holding off a late Hillsdale rally. That appeared to bother the Chargers, because they came out on fire in the fifth set.
Hillsdale took a 12-4 lead right away in set 5, removing any doubt as to the winner of this well-played match.
Senior Emily Lachmann was very efficient on offense, also setting a new single-match career-high with 15 kills. She did a great job of putting balls away, deflecting her attacks at good angles against the big Palm Beach Atlantic block.
Senior libero Taylor Wiese led a strong all-around defensive effort from Hillsdale with 30 digs, one off her career-high. She earned her spot in the AVCA 30-dig club for the first time this season and third time in her career.
Mertz handed out 59 assists and had 10 digs while senior Hannah Gates set a new single-match career-high with 9 total blocks, 3 of them solo. Gates was a demoralizing presence at the net for the Sailfish, as she perfectly anticipated many of their attacks, especially late in the match.
PHOTO: Camryn Olson