Panthers open HCAC play at Bluffton, Defiance this weekend

Ally Wiliams

HANOVER, Ind. – After an extensive and busy non-conference slate to start the season, the Hanover volleyball team will begin Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference play this weekend.

SCHEDULE: Hanover, the three-time defending HCAC regular season champions, will put its 27-match HCAC regular season win streak on the line at Bluffton (Ohio), with a 5:30 p.m. start Saturday, Sept. 29. The Panthers will then trek to Defiance for a 1 p.m. start, Sunday, Sept. 30.

CRUMP RECEIVES AWARD: Senior Abby Crump (Indianapolis, Ind.) was named to the all-tournament team this past weekend at the Heidelberg-hosted (Ohio) No One Fights Alone Invitational. Over three matches, Crump produced 13 kills, 45 assists and 26 digs, including a kill-assist-dig line of 3-13-8 in the win over Wooster (Ohio). For the season, the setter is averaging 4.11 assists per set, giving her 1,910 helpers for collegiate career.

KETCHAM LEADING THE NATION: For the third consecutive week, freshman Kelsey Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind.) sits atop the NCAA Division III statistical leaderboard for triple-doubles. Ketcham, who is in a three-way tie for first in Division III, has four triple-doubles this fall. The freshman has also produced eight double-doubles over 14 appearances. Ketcham is top three on the team in all three statistical categories, including assists, where she is averaging a team-high 4.31 helpers per set.

BLOCK PARTY: Hanover is currently one of the top teams in the conference at blocking attacks, ranking second in the HCAC and 34th nationally in total rejections, 102. The Panthers are also first in the conference in blocks per set, 1.89.

Leading the charge is senior Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.), who is third in the HCAC and among the leaders nationally with 0.89 blocks per set. The senior has eight matches this season with three or more total blocks, including a pair of seven-rejection performances. For her career, Dennis is averaging 1.17 blocks per set.

DIG THIS: Junior Ally Williams (Fountaintown, Ind.) has been one of the best back-row performers in the country this season, ranking 35th in Division III with 5.28 digs per set. The junior is also third in the conference in digs per set. Williams has six appearances of 20-plus digs, including all three matches last weekend. In the outing versus Case Western Reserve (Ohio), Williams posted a season-high 34 digs over four sets.

SCOUTING BLUFFTON: Hanover and Bluffton are familiar foes for one another, as the two sides have met in each of the past five HCAC Tournaments. The Panthers defeated the Beavers in last year's conference semifinals after falling to BU in each of the previous two HCAC Tournament championship matches.

Bluffton will enter Saturday's contest with an 8-9 overall record. The Beavers are 1-5 against common Hanover opponents this fall (Case Western Reserve, Heidelberg, Muskingum, Spalding and Thomas More), while HC has a 2-3 mark against those same institutions. Bluffton has won two straight, with both coming by a count of 3-0 last Saturday versus Marietta (Ohio) and Elizabethtown (Pa.).

SCOUTING DEFIANCE: Defiance enters the weekend with a 2-12 overall mark and will travel to Adrian (Mich.) Saturday before hosting Hanover Sunday afternoon. The Yellow Jackets have already started conference play, falling at Franklin Tuesday evening, 3-2. Defiance has lost four straight matches overall, three of which have come in five sets.

Hanover has a slim 5-4 edge in the previous nine meetings with the Yellow Jackets, but the Panthers have won three straight in the series. In 2017, HC posted a 3-0 decision at home, 25-16, 25-13, 25-12.

Contact: Tyler Jester