Gustavus Volleyball has done it again, in eerily similar fashion. The Gusties are MIAC playoff champions after downing the Bethel Royals in a rematch of last years’ MIAC Championship.
The Gusties trailed 17-14 in the first set but were able to rally back with six straight points. They held on to the lead and won 25-23.
The second set was a close one. No team ever led by more than four until the final kill, which gave the Gusties the 25-20 victory.
The Gusties smelled blood and gained an early 5-1 lead in set three, but the Royals battled back for a 25-21 Victory.
A 9-4 Royals lead in the fourth set made the large black and gold crowd nervous, but a 15-9 Run to by the Gusties to take a 19-18 lead quelled some of the discomfort. The Royals refused to die though, scoring and holding off three Gustavus set points until Sophomore Lauren Hanson sealed the championship with the final kill.
“It was one of those nights where we embraced our imperfections and really just grinded through it,” Head Coach Rachelle Sherden said.
The Royals, who the Gusties defeated in the regular season, were a big test for the Gusties.
“Bethel is such a tough team offensively and defensively, they have so many threats and they really kept us on our toes on our serve receive. That is usually our foundation and we struggled there tonight. We were able to outlast some of those long rallies and came away with the win,” Sherden said.
Hanson led the team with 18 kills, Sophomore Brittany Luethmers tallied 19 digs, and Sophomore MIAC Player-of-the-Year Nora Holtan recorded 44 assists in the win.
The Gusties now shift their focus to the NCAA playoffs, where the No. 3 seeded Gusties will take on No. 6 seeded Wartburg College (IA) in the first round of the regional tournament in St. Paul at 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11.
“We focus on being ourselves no matter what team we are playing, so we are going to go into playoffs with that mentality.” — Lauren Hanson
The two teams met earlier in the season at the Loras College Tournament on Sept. 10. Despite losing the first two sets 25-27 and 20-25, he Gusties fired back with three straight set wins, 25-20, 25-21 and 15-10 to beat the Knights.
The Knights are hot off a regular season and playoff title in the Iowa Athletic Conference and should be a good match for the Gusties.
The Gusties are more concerned about their play than their opponents though.
“We focus on being ourselves no matter what team we are playing, so we are going to go into playoffs with that mentality,” said Hanson.
If the Gusties win, they’ll take on the winner of the match between Cal Lutheran and Concordia-Wisconsin on Nov. 12.