HANOVER, Ind. – The third time was the charm for the Hanover volleyball team, as they secured their first HCAC Tournament championship in 10 years, defeating Rose-Hulman at home Sunday afternoon, 3-0.
The Panthers (26-5), who were hosting the HCAC Tournament semifinals and championship for the third consecutive year had dropped the previous two tournament finals, but prevailed in three sets Sunday, 25-22, 26-24, 25-16. Hanover has now won 15 consecutive matches overall and add the conference tournament title to their regular season championship that they won by going 9-0 for the third straight season.
For their outstanding play all weekend, seniors Monique Huynh (Indianapolis, Ind.), Kelsey Brandvik (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Kristin Goben (Finchville, Ky.) were recognized as all-tournament selections. Huynh was also tabbed as the HCAC Tournament Most Valuable Player, collecting 50 digs over the two matches, while adding 14 assists.
A pair of Panthers in Brandvik and junior Margo Main (Ann Arbor, Mich.) each tallied four kills in the opening set to help get the Panthers off to a fast start. Brandvik would finish with a team-high 10 kills, while Main added nine.
Hanover jumped out to an early lead in the opening frame, scoring nine of the first 13 points, forcing a Rose-Hulman (20-12) timeout. The Blue and Red ballooned their lead up to six points, 17-11, forcing the Engineers to use their second timeout of the set. Rose-Hulman crept to within one point late, but kills from Main, senior Emily Ertel (North Vernon, Ind.) and junior Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.) propelled HC to a 25-22 victory.
After falling behind by five points early, the Panthers used a 6-0 scoring run, highlighted by three consecutive blocks, to capture a 9-8 edge in the second set. Neither side led by more than two points for the remainder of the frame, as a RHIT service error and attacking error gave HC a 26-24 decision and a 2-0 set advantage.
The Panthers conceded a .314 hitting percentage to the Engineers in the first frame, but their defense at the net and in the back row forced RHIT into .216 and .118 hitting clips over the final two sets. The Blue and Red finished with a .307 hitting percentage, including a .424 hitting performance in the final frame.
With the two sides trading the first 10 points of the third game, it was Hanover that was able to string consecutive rallies together, as they led 13-8. Tying its largest lead of the set at 19-14, Hanover continued to grow its advantage on the scoreboard, ultimately taking the third set, 25-16, securing the team's first HCAC Tournament title since 2007.
A balanced offensive attack saw six Panthers record six or more kills. To go along with Brandvik and Main's totals were Dennis (8), Goben (7), senior Courtney Crawford (Louisville, Ky.) and Ertel (6). Brandvik also led the team with three total blocks, as the Blue and Red enjoyed a 7-3 edge in rejections.
With the win, the Panthers have secured the HCAC's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III National Tournament, which will be the team's first appearance since 2007.
Hanover will now wait to see who its first opponent in the national spectacle will be, as the NCAA Division III Selection Show will take place at 12:30 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6. For more information on the NCAA's fall selection shows, visit the link above.
Contact: Tyler Jester