HANOVER, Ind. – The Hanover volleyball team will look to defend its 2017 Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Tournament championship when they open the 2018 edition of the event at Bluffton Wednesday evening.
The No. 5 Panthers and No. 4 Beavers are slated to meet in Bluffton, Ohio on Oct. 31, for a 7 p.m. opening round match. The victor will then head to Transylvania this weekend to take on the host-Pioneers in the semifinal round.
FAMILIAR TOURNAMENT FOES: Wednesday's matchup will mark the sixth straight year that Hanover (15-13, 5-4 HCAC) and Bluffton will have lined up across the net from one another in conference tournament play. The Beavers won the first four meetings, but HC is coming off a 3-1 triumph in last year's semifinal round. This will be the first meeting between the two sides in the opening round during the six-year stretch.
TOURNAMENT SUCCESS: The Blue and Red have enjoyed success in the HCAC Tournament over recent years, highlighted by winning the championship in 2017. In fact, HC has qualified for a finals appearance in each of the last four years. Over the last five seasons, Hanover has recorded a 7-4 tournament record, including a 2-0 mark in opening round affairs. The Panthers though, will be making their first opening round appearance since the 2014 season. In 2013 and 2014 opening round victories, HC outscored its two opponents by a combined total of seven sets to one.
SENIORS SHINING: Hanover's two seniors, Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.) and Abby Crump (Indianapolis, Ind.), have been stellar all season long, but have been even better over the final stretch of the season. Dennis is coming off a 10-for-10 kills-to-attack effort against Manchester last time out, while Crump posted a team-high 20 assists.
For the season, Dennis is averaging a league-high 1.29 blocks per set, which is also the fifth best mark in NCAA Division III. Crump has paced the Panthers in assists per set, 4.70, and has 20 or more helpers in nine outings this fall.
KILLER KELSEY: Freshman Kelsey Ketcham (Mishawaka, Ind.) has been all over the court for HC this season, ranking among the top three on the team in kills (2.44), assists (4.09) and digs (2.73) per set. Ketcham's kill mark leads the team and is among the top 15 in the conference. The freshman's balanced effort has also led to 10 triple-doubles this season, which leads the country.
ALLY DIGGING HEELS IN: Junior Ally Williams (Fountaintown, Ind.) has been the leader of the back row all season, as the libero is averaging a team-best 5.34 digs per set. For the season, Williams has 561 digs, which is second in the HCAC and 26th nationally. The junior is coming off a three-match week that saw her tally 44 digs.
SCOUTING BLUFFTON: The Beavers enter Wednesday's match with a 13-14 overall record, including a 5-4 mark in the HCAC. Bluffton earned the No. 4 seed over HC with the head-to-head tiebreaker, a 3-1 win back in late September. The Beavers though, have lost three straight matches, including a 3-0 setback at Earlham last time out. Bluffton is also just 4-7 at home.
Leading the conference is kills and points per set is senior Bethany Martini at 3.65 and 3.88, respectively. Senior Erin Weisgarber is also among the conference leaders in assists, averaging 9.37 per set.
Contact: Tyler Jester