The 2011 volleyball season signaled an incredible turnaround from bottom feeder to playoff contender in the MIAC. The Gusties finished the 2010 season with a 7-19 record and were last in league play. In 2011, the Gusties finished 20-10 and finished fifth in the conference, advancing to the MIAC playoffs. The Gusties were eliminated in the first round of the MIAC playoffs against Saint Ben’s, but made huge steps as the program moves forward. Head Coach Rachelle Dosch will begin her third full year with the Gusties in 2012 and looks to continue the upward trend at Gustavus.
Soon-to-be seniors Emily Phillips, Erin Sherman and Lisa Beacher will take the reigns and look to lead both on the court and off. Phillips played an integral role for the Gusties as she amounted 301 kills, second only to Ahrendt, last season. She also registered 85 blocks, again, only second to Ahrendt.
Despite the fall season months away, the returning players for next year met for spring practices to get an early jump-start on the 2012 campaign.
“Spring practices are basically to fine tune a lot of our individual skills and also to just get back into the gym and get the chemistry flowing between the people that are returning,” said Beacher.
Coach Dosch echoed those statements. “It was really good because we had a smaller number in the gym so we had a lot of individual work and did a lot of positional practice.”
“It is just important to get in there and touch a ball. We had the alumni match to culminate the end of the spring season, which was really fun with a great turnout. I think it just gets people really excited for the upcoming fall and that is great for the program.”
Like this past year, there will be a small representation of seniors. However, this group has been preparing extensively to lead a young team. Coach Dosch commented, “We’re going to have a good number back but we expect an even amount between returners and first years. Competition in camp is always a good thing.”
The Gusties also want to have the right approach and mentality for the upcoming season. Strong leadership is a key point in that agenda.
“The two seniors and I have been doing some sessions in the off-season with our coach and with Steve Bennett who is a psychologist here and we have been working on our leadership skills,” said Beacher.
A big focus among the team is going to be the tough competition that is present in the MIAC. Top finishers in the MIAC last season included Concordia, St. Thomas, Bethel, and Saint Ben’s. The Blazers were the team to knock off the Gusties in the first round of the MIAC playoffs and defeated the Gusties in all three-match ups last year.
“There are a lot of really good teams in the conference and we are just looking to beat some of the teams that we really wanted to beat last year and one of our focuses is for sure Saint Ben’s since we have had a lot of rivalries with them the past two years,” said Beacher.
After a solid spring, the coaches and players are excited to see what 2012 will bring.
“We have all been working really hard and we all want to be here so we are really excited for next year,” said Beacher.
The Gustavus volleyball team will open its 2012 campaign at the UW-Whitewater Tournament on Aug. 31-Sept. 1. The Gusties will take on Wheaton College at 3:00 p.m. to open play on Aug. 31.