The Gustavus volleyball team claimed the #2-seed in the MIAC Post-Season Tournament by defeating Saint Mary’s 3-0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-17) on Saturday in Winona. Coach Kari Eckheart’s team registered 44 kills and just 12 errors for a .258 hitting percentage and tallied 10 team blocks. Gustavus improved to 25-3 overall and 9-2 in the MIAC, as it finished tied for second place in the conference standings for the second time in three seasons. Saint Mary’s dropped to 17-12 overall and 5-6 in the conference.
With a slim 9-8 lead in the first set, the Gusties went on a 10-2 scoring run to build the margin to 19-10. Meghan Gehring (Jr., Eau Claire, Wis.) helped fuel the streak with a pair of kills and a pair of block assists. Gustavus recorded 15 kills and two hitting miscues to finish the set hitting .371 en route to a 25-14 set win.
Saint Mary’s shook off the first set and raced out to an 11-4 advantage with kills from Sarah Gardner and Jessica Mate. The Gusties remained tough as they tied the score at 17-17 after a kill from Nicki Ainsworth (So., Eden Prairie, Minn.). The squads exchanged points until Gustavus created a small 23-21 edge after kills from Olivia Warren (Fy., Goodhue, Minn.), Angela Ahrendt (Fy., Shoreview, Minn.), and Britta Bolm (Sr., Alexandria, Minn.). Another Ahrendt kill closed out the set at 25-22 giving the Gusties a two-set lead.
The third set was even at 10-10 when Emily Klein stepped behind the service line. After three kills and two block assists from Bolm, Gehring, and Ainsworth, Gustavus held an 18-10 lead. The Cardinals cut the margin to 18-16, but the Gusties rattled off five consecutive points after Saint Mary’s miscues to go up 23-16. Olivia Warren capped off the win with her eighth kill of the match clinching a bye in the first round of the MIAC Post-Season Tournament.
Nicki Ainsworth led the offensive attack with 14 kills to go along with nine digs and four block assists. Angela Ahrendt was the only other Gustie player to reach double-figures with 10 kills hitting .450. Meghan Gehring compiled two solo blocks, seven block assists, and six kills in the winning effort. Emily Klein (Sr., Red Wing, Minn.) and Jenny Ewert (So., St. James, Minn.) led the Gustavus back row with 19 and 16 digs, respectively. Bridget Burtzel (Sr., Cold Spring, Minn.) amassed 34 assists. For Saint Mary’s, Courtney Runge had 12 kills and Brittany Cherwinka contributed 31 assists. Theresa Perrini had a match-high 22 digs.
Gustavus finished the regular season at 25-3, which is the best record by a Gustie team under Kari Eckheart’s direction. It is also the most wins by the squad since 1994 when the team finished 31-10.
The Gusties earned the #2-seed by holding the tiebreaker over Saint Benedict and will host a playoff game at Gus Young Court on Thursday, November 6 at 7 p.m. Gustavus will play the highest remaining seed after #3-Saint Benedict hosts #6-Saint Mary’s and #4-Concordia hosts #5-St. Olaf on Tuesday night.