The Gustavus volleyball team will face the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire in the first round of the NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 3:30 p.m. at Schoenecker Arena in St. Paul, Minn. Gustavus, which finished tied for second in the MIAC regular season and lost in the MIAC Post-Season Championship 3-1 to NCAA participant St. Thomas, enters with a mark of 26-4. UW-Eau Claire, which was the WIAC regular season co-champion and lost in the WIAC Tournament 3-2 to NCAA participant UW-Oshkosh, enters with a mark of 23-11.
The Gusties are making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1986 and their fifth overall appearance in the national tournament…Gustavus made four consecutive NCAA appearances from 1983-1986…The Gusties are 2-4 overall in NCAA tournament play and 2-2 in the first round…The four losses this season are the fewest losses by a Gustavus squad since 1976 when the Gusties finished the season 21-4. Two of the four losses have come against St. Thomas with the other two losses were against St. Olaf and Division I North Dakota…Gustavus has a 3-2 record against regional tournament opponents with wins over UW-La Crosse (3-1 on Sept. 5), Saint Benedict (3-1 on Oct. 22), and Concordia (3-2 on Oct. 24). The Gusties have not faced Simpson, Loras, or UW-Eau Claire this season.
Gustavus has a 7-0 record against opponents on a neutral court and are 17-2 against non-conference opponents. The two non-conference losses came against North Dakota and St. Thomas in the post-season…Gustavus appeared in the Bison/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll for the first time since 1986 when it appeared in the Sept. 16 poll ranked 22nd. The Gusties have appeared in the poll every week since that date and are currently ranked 17th, their highest ranking of the season…The Gusties are 24-0 when they outblock their opponents or have a higher hitting percentage than their opponents. Gustavus is 2-4 when it has fewer blocks than the opposing team or has a lower hitting percentage than the opposing team…As a team, Gustavus is ranked in the top 20 of four Division III statistical categories, including 16th in assists per set at 11.76 and 19th in kills (12.7), digs (19.1), and blocks (2.3) per set…Thirteen of the Gusties’ 26 wins have been in straight sets, while eleven wins have come in four-set matches…Coach Eckheart has established a regular player rotation this year as seven players have played in at least 106 of the 109 possible sets.
Libero Emily Klein is the three-time MIAC Defensive Player of the Year. She holds every dig record in program history including career digs (2,321), digs in a season (649), and digs in a match (48). This season she has 647 digs and just 40 receiving errors in 656 opportunities…Meghan Gehring has tallied 29 solo blocks and 105 block assists for 134 total blocks. Last season, Gehring compiled 104 total blocks on 20 solo blocks and 84 block assists. She is the first Gustie to record 100 blocks in consecutive seasons since Linnea Arvidson had 134 blocks in 1999 and 104 in 2000…First-year Angela Ahrendt is the daughter of Gustavus Hall of Fame volleyball player Linn Erickson Ahrendt, who was a member of the four national tournament Gustie teams from 1983-86…Three Gustie players are ranked in the top 25 of three national statistical categories. Libero Emily Klein is 11th in digs per set at 6.1. Setter Bridget Burtzel is 13th in assists per set at 10.48, while middle hitter Meghan Gehring is 22nd in blocks per set at 1.23.
UW-Eau Claire Notes
UW-Eau Claire enters the NCAA Tournament as the regular season co-champion of the WIAC for the second time in three seasons…WIAC Player of the Year senior outside hitter Abby Freiborg, who tallied 352 kills and 371 digs this season, leads the Blugolds…Senior middle blocker Katie Fox paces the team with 16 solo blocks and 94 block assists for 110 total blocks and ranks second with 260 kills…UW-Eau Claire claimed a share of the WIAC regular season title along with the UW-Oshkosh Titans with records of 7-1…The Blugolds fell to the Titans 3-2 (21-25, 25-23, 17-25, 25-22, 12-15) in the WIAC Championship last Saturday…Prior to Saturday’s match, UW-Eau Claire has won nine consecutive matches. The Blugolds are 3-5 against MIAC institutions this season and 1-4 against teams in the regional tournament…Fourteen of UW-Eau Claire’s 23 wins this season have been in three games, while only losing three matches in straight sets.
The winner of the Gustavus vs. UW-Eau Claire match will play the winner of the Saint Benedict vs. Simpson match on Friday, Nov. 14 at 1:00 p.m. The other matches on Thursday include Concordia vs. Loras at 6:00 p.m. and St. Thomas vs. UW-La Crosse at 8:30 p.m. The winner of the regional tournament will advance to the Elite Eight in Bloomington, Illinois on Nov. 20.