By Scott Beaton
ADA — The No. 23-ranked Ohio Northern volleyball team opened their 2019 campaign and the 41st annual ONU Invitational with a sweep of No. 13-ranked Illinois Wesleyan before dropping a four-set affair against No. 2-ranked Calvin (Mich.) on Friday at the ONU Sports Center.
The Polar Bears (1-1) are now 26-3 in season-opening matches under 29th-year head coach Kate Witte, who enters her final season at the helm of the program. The victory over IWU also marks the highest-ranked opponent ONU has defeated to open the season since beating #7 Emory (Ga.) in the 2002 opener.
Freshmen Jasmine Wolfgram (Carmel, Ind./Guerin Catholic) and Madison Kern (Loveland/Mount Notre Dame) made instant impact, generating 22 and 17 kills between the two matches, respectively. Senior All-American Chelsea Huppert (Bremen, Ind.) added 14 kills and five total blocks.
ONU's backline was anchored by senior McKenna Hostetler (Plain City/Alder), who recorded 40 digs on the day.
Illinois Wesleyan (0-1) was led by Jessica McCall's seven kills.
Northern dominated the first set, racing out to a 10-1 lead and rolling to a 25-4 victory.
In the second set, the Polar Bears started fast once more, leading 14-6. IWU battled back to within one point at 18-17 before Ohio Northern extended its advantage to 22-18.
After the Titans tied the set at 23-all, Wolfgram notched a kill off a set by junior Katie Wade (Battle Creek, Mich./Harper Creek) to regain the lead for ONU. IWU tied it at 24-24, but a pair of kills by Huppert clinched the set for Northern.
The third set was opened with a 5-1 run by the Titans. The Polar Bears responded by scoring 16 of the next 21 points to take a 17-10 lead.
Illinois Wesleyan got to within 20-18 before a trio of attacking errors. Kills by sophomore Madi Ellis (Delphos/St. John's) and Wolfgram secured the set and match for Ohio Northern.
The Polar Bears hit .283 on 37 kills, 92 total attacks, and 11 errors while the Titans hit -.019 with 26 kills, 103 total attacks, and 28 errors.
In the match against Calvin (1-0), Northern rallied from down 18-11 to tie the first set at 20-20 on a kill by junior Paige Hartings (Coldwater).
The Knights then owned a 24-22 advantage. Huppert and Wade each tallied kills prior to Wolfgram recording back-to-back kills to win the set 26-24.
Calvin won the next two sets 25-15, taking a 2-1 lead in the match.
The fourth set resulted in a valiant comeback attempt for ONU. Northern trailed 17-8 and fought back to take a 23-22 edge on a Kern kill.
Kern tacked on another kill to give the Polar Bears a 24-23 lead, but could not close out the set as Calvin scored three-straight points to win the set and match.
Northern hit .224 with 47 kills, 134 total attacks, and 17 errors while the Knights hit .281 on 57 kills, 139 total attacks, and 18 errors.
Ohio Northern returns to action Sunday with No. 6-ranked Wittenberg at 1:00 p.m. and Transylvania (Ky.) at 3:30 p.m. at the ONU Sports Center.