The Gustavus volleyball team kept its hopes of a MIAC playoff berth alive with a 3-2 win over St. Benedict Saturday afternoon in St. Joseph involving 41 ties and 18 lead changes. Coach Eckheart’s squad snapped an eight-match home winning streak for the Blazers as four Gusties registered at least twelve kills each. Emily Klein paced the Gustavus defense with 26 digs, as Bridget Burtzel tallied 55 assists. Gustavus improved to 16-8 overall and 4-5 in the MIAC, while St. Ben’s fell to 19-8 overall and 7-2 in the MIAC.
The Golden Gusties built a 15-9 lead in game one before St. Ben’s turned the tables to take a 28-23 lead. Gustavus remained persistent forcing St. Ben’s to commit three hitting errors and a ball handling error to tie the game at 28-28. St. Ben’s won the game 31-29 on a kill by Laurel Heggernes and a block by Heggernes and Beth Hanson.
Game two went in favor of the Blazers by the score of 30-26 thanks to a .224 hitting percentage. Both sqauds remained tied at 24-24 before St. Ben’s went on a 6-2 run to close out the set.
Persistence paid off for Gustavus as the team won the next two games 30-24 and 30-28. The Gusties began to find their offensive stride as the team hit 35 kills in both games, while the Blazers hit 18 errors during the span.
Game five proved to be even more intense than the previous four featuring nine tie scores and seven lead changes. St. Ben’s jumped out to an early 6-0 lead, but Gustavus roared back scoring the next seven points. Jen Thelemann (Le Sueur, Minn.) and Britta Bolm (Alexandria, Minn.) had two kills each during the run. Both teams exchanged points for the remainder of the match until Gustavus scored the last two points of the match on a Bolm kill and a Calleigh Brown hitting error winning game five 18-16.
In addition to Thelemann’s 23 kills, the Gusties received 15 from Meghan Gehring (Eau Claire, Wis.) and 12 from Andrea Kron (Cold Spring, Minn.) and Bolm. Coach Eckheart’s team is now in a three-way tie with Hamline and St. Olaf for the final MIAC playoff spot with two matches remaining. Gustavus will wrap up MIAC play this week with home contests against Macalester Wednesday at 7:00 pm and against St. Mary’s Saturday at 3:00 pm.