The Gustavus volleyball team continued its storybook season with a 3-2 win over St. Ben’s on Saturday afternoon at Gus Young Court in St. Peter. The Gusties won the decisive fifth game 15-8 to claim the important conference win. Emily Klein set a school record for digs in a match with 46. Gustavus improves to 17-8 overall and 8-2 in the MIAC, while St. Ben’s drops to 13-11 overall and 5-5 in the MIAC.
The Gusties got off to a slow start in the match losing the first game decisively 30-20. Coach Kari Eckheart’s squad rallied in game two and posted a 30-25 victory to even the match at 1-1.
In the third game, Gustavus battled the Blazers throughout the pivotal game with neither team being able to hold more than a two point lead until late in the match. With the scored tied 24-24, the Gusties reeled off four straight points to take a commanding 28-24 lead. St. Ben’s rallied to cut the lead to two at 28-26, but Gustavus countered with kills by Jen Thelemann (Jr., Le Sueur, Minn.) and Becca Thompson (Sr., Mankato, Minn.) to take the game 30-26.
In the fourth game, it looked like Gustavus might pull away and claim the match as it held leads of 15-11 and 17-13, however St. Ben’s scored six straight points to take a 19-17 lead. The Gusties would rally to score the next three to take a 20-19 lead, but the Blazers would score the next five points to put Gustavus in a big hole at 24-20. A Becca Thompson kill would pull the Gusties within three at 24-21. but St. Ben’s would tally six of the next nine points to win the fourth game 30-24 and extend the match to a decisive fifth game.
In the fifth game, the two conference rivals would trade points early in the match and the score was tied at 8-8. Senior Becca Thompson would knock down two kills and record two blocks to help her squad score the final seven points and give Gustavus a 15-8 win in game five.
Gustavus was led on the attack by junior Andrea Kron (Cold Spring, Minn.) with 20 kills and a .415 attack percentage. Others recording double digit kills were Jen Thelemann with 17, and Becca Thompson and Danielle Gimmestad (Fy., Marshall, Minn.) with 10 each. Libero Emily Klein (So., Red Wing, Minn.) turned in one of the finest performances of her young career as she broke the school record for digs in a match with 46. The previous mark was 43 set by Tara Houlihan on October 14, 2004. Sophomore setter Bridget Burtzel also had a big afternoon as she recorded 57 set assists.
St. Ben’s was led by Nicole Hjelmgren with 16 kills. Teri Knapper and Emma Jaynes contributed 15 kills each. Beth Hanson recorded 58 set assists, and Laura Zwach added 28 digs.
The Gustavus volleyball team celebrated Senior Day as it was the final home match of the regular season. The Gusties honored three seniors who were playing their final regular season match on Gus Young Court. That trio included Rachelle Jakobs (Montevideo, Minn.), Jessica Plemel (Owatonna, Minn.), and Becca Thompson.
With the win, the Gusties clinched a second place finish in the MIAC regular season standings, and assured themselves of the #2 seed in the MIAC Playoffs. Gustavus will now receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs and host a semifinal match at Gus Young Court on Thursday, November 2 against an opponent that has yet to be determined. The second place finish is the highest finish for the Gusties since the 1986 squad won the MIAC title.
Coach Kari Eckheart’s squad has been the surprise of the 2006 season in the MIAC as the league coaches picked Gustavus to finish eighth in the pre-season poll.