The Gustie volleyball team earned their first MIAC conference win last week on Thursday when they swept St. Olaf.
In their following match during homecoming, the Gusties then lost in three sets to Northwestern.
In set one against the Oles the Gusties dominated late, taking 11 of the last 16 points for a 25-15 win.
Solid blocking up front was a key to putting pressure on, especially early in the set.
St. Olaf battled hard in the second set, with the two teams going point-for-point nearly the entire set.
The score was even at 22 before a kill from First-year Sarah Elliott pushed the Gusties to the brink of victory.
Two errors turned the tide and put the Gusties’ back to the wall, but the teams traded points until a 27-27 stalemate.
Consecutive kills by First-years Rhyan Herrmann and Kaylyn Johnston then provided the death blow for the Oles, putting Gustavus up 2-0.
The third set was similar to the second as the two well-matched teams went blow for blow.
The Gusties eventually worked their way to match point at 24-21, but St. Olaf continued fighting and scored two points in a row.
A kill from Sophomore Kaikea Welsh ended the rally and gave the Gusties a convincing 3-0 win.
“Going into the game we told them to be ready for long rallies and to work hard in transition as they’re a very talented team,” Head Coach Rachelle Sherden commented. “I thought we did a pretty good job of capitalizing with our serves and getting them out of their system. We also did a good job setting tonight, and our right-sides had a really good match.”
One key to the match for Gustavus was defense, as the Gusties out blocked the Oles 10-1 and allowed the strong service of St. Olaf just one service ace.
This strong defensive effort was commented on by Sherden.
“Our passing was lights out tonight, as we did really well controlling the first ball contact and that was one of our better blocking matches we’ve had this year,” Sherden said.
The Gustie offense was balanced in this contest, with Herrmann and Sophomore Annalee Olson-Sola both notching eight kills, Junior Kate Holtan adding seven and Elliot adding 6.
Johnston and Senior Mitaya Johnson dished out a combined 30 assists, and Junior Hailey Embacher had 15 digs in the back row.
The Gustie’s next match was a bright and early 11 a.m. contest on the morning of Homecoming Saturday.
The Eagles of Northwestern-St. Paul won the UMAC conference last year, finishing at 23-9, and have started this year off strong as well.
In the first set, Northwestern initially strode ahead to leads of 15-7 and then 22-18. The Gusties rallied back and evened things at 23, but consecutive errors cost them the first set.
Set two saw the Eagles in control for the duration of the set as they attained leads of 12-6 and 23-16.
In a parallel to the first set Gustavus stormed back to bring the score within two at 23-21, but the Gusties were unable to complete the comeback and dropped the second set as well.
The final set saw the two teams battling back and forth until the Eagles evened things at 20.
Five of the last six points went to Northwestern, and they closed out both the match and the set.
With the loss, the Gusties fall to 8-8 on the season, while the Eagles move to 9-4.
Holtan and Elliott both had strong performances offensively, notching nine kills each.
Johnston added to the effort with 17 assists, and Embacher once again led the way in the back with 16 digs.
A telling statistic was the hitting percentages: Eagles at .225, Gusties at .187.
The team is now over halfway through its season and is splitting its games.
With some time to reflect and prepare for their next test, the Gusties shift their focus to maintaining a strong conference record.
The team is back in action on Saturday, Oct. 5 against Hamline.