HANOVER, Ind. – Fresh off its third consecutive HCAC regular season championship, the Hanover volleyball team will host the league's postseason tournament semifinals and championship this weekend.
The Panthers (24-5) will compete in the opening semifinal match inside Collier Arena, at 2 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4, when they host Bluffton, who is the four-time defending HCAC Tournament champion. The second semifinal contest will feature the No. 2 seed, Transylvania, and the No. 3 seed, Rose-Hulman. The winners of the two semifinal matches will return to Collier Arena for the 1 p.m. championship contest, Sunday, Nov. 5.
The Blue and Red finished the HCAC regular season gauntlet with a 9-0 record for the third year in a row and will be looking for their first conference tournament title since 2007, after dropping each of the last two championship matches at home to Bluffton.
Hanover seems as primed as ever to finally breakthrough in 2017, as the Blue and Red have already secured their best overall record, in terms of fewest losses, during the Peter Preocanin era. Preocanin has now led HC to three consecutive 20-plus win seasons for just the second time in program history. The previous streak came with current Hanover athletic director Lynn Hall at the helm, as the team pulled off four straight 20-plus win seasosn from 1991-1994.
Hanover will carry a 13-match winning streak in the conference tournament this weekend after securing 3-0 victories over Franklin and Anderson in the final week of the regular season. During the two-match stretch, three different Panthers recorded 14 kills to lead the team, including junior Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.), who added six total blocks defensively, for a team-high 19 points.
On the season, Dennis leads the HCAC in blocks per set, 1.39. The junior has hosted her own block party during HCAC matches this season, totaling 45 rejections over the nine contests. Her 3.3 points per set during conference play was also among the top 10 in the HCAC.
Entering the final HCAC Tournament of her career is senior Courtney Crawford (Louisville, Ky.), who is among the top 10 active players nationally in career hitting percentage (.341) and blocks per set (0.94). The senior's .315 hitting clip in 2017 is the highest in the HCAC, among those with at least 300 total attacks.
A trio of Panthers are averaging over two kills per set to lead a balanced offensive attack for HC. Junior Margo Main (Ann Arbor, Mich.) leads the way at 2.50, while she and seniors Kristin Goben (Finchville, Ky.) and Emily Ertel (North Vernon, Ind.) have combined for 26 double-digit kill efforts this fall.
All three matches against the HCAC institutions traveling to Hanover this weekend were competitive during the regular season, with the Panthers holding a combined 9-3 edge in set victories. Bluffton (19-10, 7-2 HCAC), Transylvania (20-9, 7-2 HCAC) and Rose-Hulman (19-11, 7-2 HCAC) have all had successful seasons, posting at least 19 wins overall, and earning a three-way for second place in the HCAC standings at 7-2.
For complete coverage on the HCAC Volleyball Tournament, visit the link above.
Contact: Tyler Jester