The Gustavus volleyball team’s ability to score points in the late stages of each set helped the Gusties win their MIAC opener over Augsburg College 3-1 (25-16, 24-26, 25-23, 25-21) on Wednesday night in St. Peter. A balanced Gustie offensive attack helped frustrate the Auggie defense as four hitters finished with nine or more kills. The Gustavus blockers scored key points as they held a 12.0-5.5 advantage in blocks compared to Augsburg. The Gusties improved 11-1 overall and 1-0 in the MIAC, as the Auggies fell to 8-6 overall and 0-1 in conference play.
The Gusties raced out of the gates as they took an 8-2 lead due in part to three service aces from Andrea Smilanich (Sr., South St. Paul, Minn.). Augsburg cut the lead down to four points after a kill from Julie Jenkins, but Gustavus responded with a kill from Meghan Gehring (Jr., Eau Claire, Wis.). The Auggies’ struggles with Smilanich’s serve continued as she posted two more aces and the Gusties received a pair of kills from Nicki Ainsworth (So., Eden Prairie, Minn.) to take a 22-12 lead. A tip by Bridget Burtzel (Sr., Cold Spring, Minn./ROCORI) closed out the set 25-16 in favor of Gustavus.
Augsburg gained momentum early in the second set as the Auggies went on a 9-3 run to build a 16-9 advantage over the Gusties. However, Gustavus began to chip away at the lead with each service rotation until the score was tied at 24-24 after an Augsburg hitting error. Augsburg coach Jessica Rinehart called timeout to collect her squad and set up a play, which was perfectly executed on the next serve as Katie Christensen tipped the ball over the Gustavus block for a 25-24 lead. The Auggies won 26-24 after a Jessica Hilk serve dove across the net in front of the Gustie defense.
The third set was similar to the second as Gustavus jumped out to an early 15-9 lead. This time is was Augsburg’s turn to battle back to tie the score at 19-19. However, the Gusties were able to build a four-point lead at 23-19 after Emily Klein (Sr., Red Wing, Minn.) made a key dig that resulted in a kill by Angela Ahrendt (Fy., Shoreview, Minn.). The Auggies did not give up as team cut the lead back to 23-22. Olivia Warren (Fy., Goodhue, Minn.) ended the comeback to give Gustavus set point as the Gusties took the third set 25-23.
Both squads exchanged scoring runs until midway through the fourth set when Gustavus had a 19-17 edge after an Augsburg hitting error and a block from Burtzel and Gehring. The Auggies pulled within 21-20 after a Katie Christensen kill, but the Gusties would not look back as the squad went on a small 4-1 run to end the contest.
Olivia Warren (Fy., Goodhue, Minn.) led the Gustavus offense with 12 kills, followed closely by Angela Ahrendt with 11 kills. Meghan Gehring and Nicki Ainsworth finished with nine kills each, as Gehring also contributed two solo blocks and five block assists. Bridget Burtzel dished out 42 assists, while Emily Klein recorded 36 digs. From the service line, Andrea Smilanich posted five of Gustavus’ eight service aces.
Three Augsburg hitters reached double-figures, including Katie Christensen with 13, Laura Harms with 11, and Julie Jenkins with 10. Defensively, the Auggies were led by Dani Tanaka with 28 digs. Setter Shanna Reed recorded 40 assists.
The Gusties have now won seven consecutive MIAC opening contests and seven straight matches over the Auggies dating back to 2002.
Gustavus will participate in the Northwestern (MN) Quadrangular on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. in St. Paul. Augsburg will travel to Northfield, Minn. to face Carleton College on Wednesday, September 24 at 7 p.m.