This past weekend, Gustavus Volleyball started its 2019 campaign at the Elmhurst Tournament in Illinois.
The team is looking to build off of last year’s success, where it went undefeated in the MIAC and secured the program’s sixth MIAC Championship.
The Gusties followed up with a strong postseason run, becoming MIAC Tournament Champions and were selected to host the regional portion of the NCAA tournament, but ultimately lost in the first round to UM-Morris.
Head Coach Rachelle Sherden, who was previously named MIAC Head Coach of the Year, is returning for her 10th season with the Gusties.
She is hoping to maintain the same competitiveness as last season despite graduating an accomplished core of seniors.
“We have a lot of new faces in the gym but our upperclassmen have done a really good job of taking the underclassmen under their wing and showing them the ropes both on and off the court early,” Sherden said. “I think they’re adjusting really well and picking up on the new things we’re training and they’re all very coachable so it’s been really fun to see how much they’ve grown in just a week and a half.”
The Gusties’ first test was this past weekend in a match against Elmhurst College.
The team had a slow start, dropping the first set 25-19, but quickly turned things around and won the match in the next three sets.
Junior Kate Holtan led the team with 13 kills, while Sophomore Annalee Olson-Sola notched 12 of her own in the Gustie comeback. Senior Mitaya Johnson contributed to the team’s success with 28 assists.
Holtan also led the team with 23 digs in the match.
The second contest of the day was against Augustana University and the story was very similar.
The Gusties dropped the first set 25-17 but thundered back ending the match in the next three sets.
Holtan led the offense again with 15 kills and Junior Hailey Embacher headed the defensive effort, recording 19 digs.
The following day, the Gusties took on previously No. 10 ranked Aurora University in an intense matchup.
This time the team came out firing, winning its first set 25-15.
Set two was more of a back-and-forth battle with many lead changes, but the Gusties closed out the set 25-22.
The team completed the sweep in three sets with a score of 25-19, and ended the battle that was predicted to a much closer contest.
Later that day, the team played its final match of the tournament and handled business against North Central, winning the match 3-1.
With a full weekend of play under its belt and a 4-0 start to the season, this team is proving to be one to watch.
“I thought overall it was a good start. There’s a lot to build from and I’m excited about the potential of this team. They are a fierce group with solid fundamentals and eagerness to learn. We look forward to getting back after it in the gym next week,” Sherden said.
Despite having a younger team than normal, it is looking as competitive as ever and is deserving of their ranking, according to Sherden.
“[The first-years] are all really talented players but beyond that they fit into our culture and fit the identity of Gustavus volleyball,” Sherden said. “How fast they’re picking up on things and how bought in they are has made our chemistry as a team possibly the best I’ve seen it this early in the season with such a new group.”
The Gusties are back in action this weekend for another tournament in Dubuque, IA. While there, the team will be competing in another nationally-ranked competition against No. 25 Washington University.