After a second-place conference finish and an 18-9 record last fall, the Gustavus Adolphus College volleyball team will look to contend for the MIAC title again in 2007. Head Coach Kari Eckheart will be looking for MIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Emily Klein and all-conference performers Andrea Kron and Jennifer Thelemann, to join eight other returning letterwinners.
Klein (Red Wing, MN), a junior libero, will be asked to continue anchoring a defense that ranked second in the MIAC last season. Klein is set to become the all-time dig leader at Gustavus this year, as she needs only 159 digs to accomplish this feat. Senior outside hitter Andrea Kron (Cold Spring, MN) will be relied on to provide much of the offensive firepower this year after finishing last season with 410 kills. Kron needs 229 kills to move into third place on the all-time kills list. Jennifer Thelemann (Le Sueur, MN) is the other half of Gustavus’ dynamic hitting duo, contributing 391 kills to last year’s campaign. Kron and Thelemann combined to give Gustavus its most successful offensive attack since Katie Olstad and Jen Churchich in 1993.
Supporting cast members include veteran setter Bridget Burtzel (Jr., Cold Spring, MN), who tallied 1,031 assists last year. She needs 532 assists to earn the distinction of moving into fourth place at Gustavus all-time. Jessi Weber (Osceola, WI) saw significant playing time in the back row and will be called upon to help Klein jump start the potent Gustie offense.
A few questions remain for Eckheart’s crew this year after the loss of four key players. One question is who will step in as the dominant presence at the net with the graduation of a veteran middle blocker Becca Thompson and the loss of sophomore Danielle Gimmestad. Despite limited playing time last year, Meghan Gehring (Eau Claire, WI) has the opportunity to land one of these spots. Eckheart will also be looking to fill the other outside hitter spot vacated by the graduation of Jessica Plemel.
The squad will look to incoming players Nicki Ainsworth, an outside hitter from Eden Prairie, MN, Samantha Broderuis, a setter from Hector, MN, Janey Helland, a hitter from Mapleton, MN, and Beth Butala, a hitter from Bloomington, MN to provide depth as the team looks to stay among the MIAC elite.
The Golden Gusties have the opportunity to reach a couple of team milestones this season. Eckheart’s squad needs 17 wins to reach 750 all-time as a program and eight MIAC wins to attain 150 in league competition.
The Gusties will be tested early in the season as they face off against perennial national powers UW-Eau Claire and St. Thomas in the first month of competition. However, consistency is critical to the season as key matches in conference play against Concordia, Hamline, and St. Benedict highlight the last two weeks of the regular season.