Only eight weeks separate the Gustavus volleyball team from its first competition of the 2003 season. The squad is coming off of its best conference finish since 1997 and first .500 or better season in four years.
All six starters and seven of the eight players who participated in 70 or more matches last year return for Head Coach Kari Eckheart. Leading the way is a pair of second team all-conference selections, Jessica Schaetzke and Rachel Batalden.
Schaetzke, a senior outside hitter from New Ulm, Minnesota, led the Gusties in kills with 346. She finished the season ranked eighth in the MIAC in kills per game with an average of 3.36.
Batalden, a junior setter from Lamberton, Minnesota, led Gustavus in set assists with 919 and games played with 87. She finished the season ranked fourth in the MIAC in assists per game at 11.0 and 42nd in Division III at 10.56 per game.
Top players also returning for Coach Eckheart include Anne Osthus, Nicole Nesseth, Tara Houlihan, Pat Lawton, and Jennifer Tischer.
Consistency will be the key to how far this year’s squad will go. Last season the Gusties started the year 6-9 before winning seven of their next eight games. One more victory would have put Gustavus into the six-team MIAC Championships, however the Gusties dropped their final two conference contests.
Gustavus opens up the year at the Haverford Invitational in Haverford, Pennsylvania beginning on August 29. The Gusties then return home to host the Gustavus Classic on September 5 and 6.