Volleyball falls to Bluffton in HCAC Tournament Opening Round


BLUFFTON, Ohio – The Hanover volleyball team fell in the opening round of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament Wednesday evening at Bluffton, 3-0.

The Panthers were victim of two late-set rallies from the Beavers in the 26-24, 25-17, 25-21 three-set defeat. With the win, Bluffton (14-14) advances to this weekend's tournament semifinal round at Transylvania.

Earning her nation-leading 11th triple-double of the season was freshman Kelsey Kethcham (Mishawaka, Ind.). Ketcham tallied a team-high 14 kills, hitting .310, while adding 15 digs and 11 assists over three sets. The freshman joined sophomore Blaise Chaney (Mason, Ohio) and senior Claire Dennis (Bloomington, Ind.) with multiple blocks as well.

In her final collegiate match, Dennis recorded five kills to go along with 1.5 blocks. Joining her for the final time was classmate Abby Crump (Indianapolis, Ind.), who paced the Panthers with a team-high 20 assists and eight digs.

Other notables statistically for Hanover were 10 kills from freshman Emma Rolf (Lebanon, Ind.) and a team-best 24 digs by junior Ally Williams (Fountaintown, Ind.). Overall, HC had a .130 hitting percentage, while the Beavers finished at a .220 clip.

The Blue and Red got off to a fast start in set one, taking a commanding 5-1 lead. Hanover pushed the advantage to five, 10-5, forcing a Bluffton timeout. Out of the break though, BU rallied to tie the set at 10-all.

As the frame was coming to its end, kills from Rolf, Chaney and junior Madie Snyder (Boonville, Ind.) put HC in front 20-17. Bluffton though, rallied again, as the Panthers were forced to take a timeout with their lead cut to one point, 22-21. Leading 24-22, HC conceded the final four points of the set to fall 26-24.

Bluffton carried that momentum into the second set, where they won 25-17. Hanover hit just .073 in the second game, logging 12 kills on 41 total attacks.

Needing to win the third set to keep the match and its season alive, Hanover found itself up 14-7 after a Chaney kill. Just as they did in the first set though, the Beavers used a pair of 4-0 spurts to pull within one point, 18-17. Despite a pair of HC timeouts to try and breakup the momentum, BU tallied seven of the final 11 points to come from behind for a 25-21 decision.

The loss concludes Hanover's season at 15-14. The Panthers entered the tournament as the No. 5 seed after going 5-4 in HCAC play this fall. At the end of its season, Hanover currently has two players among national statistical leaders. Ketcham leads the nation with her triple-double mark, while Dennis entered Wednesday ranked No. 5 in NCAA Division III for blocks per set.

The Panthers' senior class of Dennis and Crump finish their collegiate careers with an overall mark of 89-37, good enough for a .706 winning percentage. Both players were also key in getting Hanover to the NCAA Division III National Tournament for the first time in a decade during the 2017 campaign.

Contact: Tyler Jester