Panthers aim for third straight HCAC Championship this week

Emily Ertel and Abby Crump high five each other

HANOVER, Ind. - The Hanover volleyball team will enter the last week of the regular season needing only one win in its final two matches to secure its third straight Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship. 

The Panthers will begin the week Wednesday, Oct. 25 at home against Franklin, and then go on the road for their regular-season finale Saturday, Oct. 28 against Anderson.

Last week was a good one as the Blue and Red won five matches in as many tries and only lost one of the 16 sets played. Hanover won non-conference matches against Blackburn (Ill.), Spalding (Ky.), and Florida College (Fla.), and HCAC contests against Earlham and Rose-Hulman to improve to 22-5 overall and 7-0 in the HCAC. The Panthers have now won 11 straight this year, and extended their regular season HCAC winning streak to 25 consecutive victories.

Following the week, junior Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.) became the third Hanover player this fall to be recognized by the conference. Dennis was named the HCAC Defensive Player of the Week after she recorded 21 total blocks, 28 digs, and 21 kills in only 12 sets.

Dennis leads the league in blocks per set (1.40), is tied for second in block totals (80) and block assists (71), and ranks fourth in hitting percentage at .311.

Seniors Courtney Crawford (Louisville, Ky.) and Kristin Goben (Finchville, Ky.) also rank among the top five in the conference in four different categories. Crawford is third in hitting percentage (.314) and solo blocks (22), tied for fourth in blocks per set (0.83) and fifth in total blocks (76). Goben is tied for second in both total blocks (80) and block assists (71), tied for fourth in blocks per set (0.83) and fifth in points (283.5).

Franklin enters the week in tenth place in the league with a 10-13 overall record and an 0-7 mark in HCAC play. After starting the year 10-5, the Grizzlies have dropped their last eight matches and only won four sets in those contests. 

Senior Amanda Lelivelt and junior Libby Stahl are among the HCAC leaders in at least two categories each. Lelivelt leads the league with 34 solo blocks, is third in blocks per set at 0.85, and ranks fifth with a .304 hitting percentage, while Stahl is third in digs per set (5.69) and tied for fourth with 461 total digs. 

Hanover has won 10 of the last 11 meetings between the two schools with the lone loss coming in a non-conference match-up in 2013. The Panthers won last year's contest 3-1 at Franklin. 

Anderson is 10-18 overall and 1-6 in the HCAC. The ninth place Ravens have dropped six of their last seven, with their only win coming in a 3-0 win over Franklin at home. Senior Sydney Coffman is second in the conference with 886 assists and fourth in assists per set at 8.95. Freshman Olivia Rice currently ranks second in solo blocks with 25.

Hanover has also had a great deal of success against Anderson in recent years. The Panthers are 9-1 against the Ravens in the last 10 meetings and have won 12 of the last 13 sets between the two schools. Anderson's last win in the series also came in a non-conference match, a 3-1 win in 2011. 

Wednesday's contest against Franklin will also be the final regular season home match for the team's five seniors. Start time is set for 7 p.m. Saturday's regular-season finale will begin at 1 p.m. in Anderson, Ind. 

Contact: Mike Pritchard

pritchard@hanover.edu