To beat a team three times in a season is tough, a concept the Saint Benedict volleyball team most undoubtedly heard entering tonight’s match with Gustavus. Nerveless, the old adage ceased to work out in the favor of the visiting Gusties as Saint Ben’s went on to win the match by the score of 3-1. With the win over Gustavus in the MIAC Playoff quarterfinals, Saint Ben’s moves on to face Concordia in the semifinals on Thursday.
The Gusties finish the season with an overall record of 20-10. Quite the turnaround from a season ago in which the they placed last in the MIAC at 7-19 overall and 1-10 in league play.
Gustavus forced both its previous two matches of the season with the Blazers into a fifth and deciding set. It didn’t take five sets to declare a winner tonight, as Saint Ben’s took sets one (25-21), two (25-20) and four (25-15) on the way to the victory.
The depth of the Blazer attack was put on display from start to finish. Four Saint Benedict players finished with double-figure kills including Lexi Alm (16), Chelsie Sobleck (13), Callie Neumann (11), and Alexa Rinde (10). Saint Ben’s finished with a total of 59 kills and a team attack percentage of .186.
After Saint Ben’s used a 6-1 run to take a 10-6 lead in the opening set of the match, Gustavus was forced to play catch-up, unable to make up the difference for the remainder of the set. The Blazers didn’t allow a Gustie scoring-run of more than two points the entire set, holding on for a 25-21 win to take a 1-0 lead in the match.
Despite recording just six kills and an attack percentage of -.103 in the second set, Gustavus kept the sore close until the end. The Blazers earned a 2-0 lead in the match following a 6-1 run to close out the second set and win the frame 25-20.
Facing elimination by way of a sweep, Gustavus bounced back with a 25-22 win in the third set to cut the lead to 3-1 in the match. A five-point swing that put the Gusties up 18-14 turned out to be the advantage they needed to hold on for the victory. Ahrendt led the team with seven kills within the frame.
One monster scoring run turned out to be the difference in the fourth set. With an 11-9 lead, the Blazers won nine consecutive points to grab a 20-9 lead before Gustavus could stop the bleeding and get a side out to knock Chelsie Sobleck off the serve. The deficit was too steep to climb back from as Saint Ben’s went on to win the set by the score of 25-15.
The Gustavus offense was led by Angela Ahrendt and Emily Phillips. Ahrendt had a team-high 15 kills with an attack percentage of .279, while Phillips added 13 kills and finished with an attack percentage of .275. Gustavus finished with 45 total kills and a team attack percentage of .120.
Four different Gusties finished with double-digit digs. Erin Sherman led the team with 14, Malea Noennig recorded 13, Olivia Warren had 12, and Shelby Nosan added 11. Noenning also provided a match-high 39 set assists.
Blazers Lexi Alm and Chelsea Rachel were two of five players to hit double-figure digs for Saint Ben’s. Lexi Alm turned in a match-high 25, while Rachel finished with 17. Saint Benedict won the ace battle 6-to-1 in the match.
Saint Benedict moves on to play Concordia in the semifinals of the MIAC Playoffs on Thursday, Nov. 3 at 7:00 p.m. in Moorhead, Minn. with the victory.