The 17th-ranked Gustavus volleyball team saw its season come to an end after a 3-0 (18-25, 21-25, 21-25) loss to UW-Eau Claire in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon in St. Paul. Meghan Gehring paced the Gusties with 10 kills, while no other player finished with more than seven kills. Abby Freiborg was one of three Blugold players to register double-digit kills with 14. Gustavus ended the season at 26-5 overall with its first appearance in the national tournament since 1986. UW-Eau Claire, which improved to 24-11, will face Saint Benedict on Friday at 4:30 p.m. in St. Paul.
Both squads were tied 10-10 in the early stages of the first set as the teams traded side outs. However, UW-Eau Claire went on a 9-3 run after several Gustie hitting miscues and a pair of kills from Danielle Lucia for a 19-13 advantage. Gustavus went on a mini scoring streak late in the set to pull within 23-18 after a block from Angela Ahrendt (Fy., Shoreview, Minn.) and Nicki Ainsworth (So., Eden Prairie, Minn.) and a service ace by Jenny Ewert (So., St. James, Minn.). The Blugolds called a timeout to stop the momentum swing and closed out the set with kills from Abby Freiborg and Lucia.
The second set began in a similar fashion to the first set as the set was knotted up at 17-17. UW-Eau Claire went on a 7-1 run to take a 24-18 lead fueled by a pair of kills and a service ace from Freiborg. The Gusties, again, put together a scoring string to cut the deficit to 24-21, but the Blugolds were able to regroup after another timeout and win the set with a kill from Jenna Weber.
Head Coach Kari Eckheart’s squad would not go down without a fight, as the team stormed out to a 10-7 advantage in the third set. UW-Eau Claire chipped away at the lead en route to another 17-17 tie. Behind the jump serving of Lindsey Smith, the Blugolds received two kills from Freiborg and a service ace for the 20-17 edge. Gustavus battled back into the match at 21-22 with kills from Britta Bolm (Sr., Alexandria, Minn.) and Meghan Gehring (Jr., Eau Claire, Wis.). The Blugolds called timeout and proceeded to finish the match with three straight points behind kills from Weber and Emily Zupon and a Gustie hitting error.
In addition to Gehring’s 10 kills, Britta Bolm (Sr., Alexandria, Minn.) contributed seven kills followed by six kills from Angela Ahrendt (Fy., Shoreview, Minn.). Bridget Burtzel (Sr., Cold Spring, Minn.) closed out her career with 31 assists and 12 digs, while Emily Klein (Sr., Red Wing, Minn.) added a team-high 17 digs in the losing effort. With her 17 digs, Klein set a new program single-season record with 664 digs. The previous record was 649 digs, which she set in 2006.