This past week, the Gustavus Volleyball team lost two tough matches on the road to conference foes. With the losses, Gustavus falls to 12-14 overall and 5-4 in the MIAC.
On Friday, the Gusties made the trek up north to Moorhead, Minnesota to face the Cobbers of Concordia.
The Gusties jumped out of the gate in earnest and dominated the Cobbers in the first set, slamming down 16 kills and hitting .636 as they seized a decisive 25-14 victory.
Set two saw the Gusties sticking to the same script early, as they jumped out to a 10-4 lead before the Cobbers finally mustered a response. A hard-fought middle part of the set resulted in a 22-20 lead for Concordia. Gustavus fought back and forced extra points, but the Cobbers ultimately prevailed with a 30-28 win.
An early 7-4 lead, consistent play and mounting momentum gave the Cobbers a 24-17 lead in the third set, and they seemed ready to cruise to victory. Gustavus rallied with three straight points, but Concordia ended the set with a kill.
In the fourth and final set, both teams traded blows in what was the most even set of the night, as neither team held more than a two-point lead until the Cobbers led 22-19 late. Three straight kills from First-year Sarah Elliott evened things at 22, but Concordia slammed the door shut on a comeback with three straight points.
Junior Kate Holtan continued her stellar play, notching 20 kills and hitting .680.
Elliott added 10 more, and First-year Rhyan Herrmann and Sophomore Gemma Robey also chipped in with nine kills apiece.
First-year Nora Lehmkuhl excelled in dishing out the rock, leading the Gusties with 34 set assists.
After the defeat, Holtan cited game flow as a factor.
“We tended to get stuck in ruts at times, allowing the other team to go on long service runs and digging ourselves a hole that we couldn’t get out of,” Holtan said.
However, the match was not without its bright spots.
“We had a strong offensive line and achieved an excellent hitting percentage as a team. We also played very gritty defense, and worked hard in long rallies,” Holtan said.
Gustavus hopped back on the bus the next morning and rolled into St. Joseph for a showdown with the No. 12 ranked Bennies of Saint Benedict.
Once again, the Gusties gained momentum early by prevailing in the first set. An even initial exchange saw the match tied at 20, after which the Black and Gold took four out of the next five points to get set point at 24-21. A Holtan kill ended the set two points later.
The Bennies shook off their slow start and dominated both of the next two sets with strong attacks, winning 25-15 and 25-14.
The end of the contest was competitive, with both teams grappling to take the lead. An early score of 8-8 turned into a 19-13 advantage for the Bennies, but Gustavus fought back to make it 20-18.
Saint Benedict then took five of the last seven points to close out the set and the match.
The Bennies came into the contest as the best blocking team in the MIAC, and they demonstrated their defensive prowess with 14 blocks on the night.
Holtan notched a double-double on the night with 14 kills and 10 digs, while First-year Sydney Olson added a career high 11 kills.
Lehmkuhl dished out 26 assists, and Junior Hailey Embacher led the way in the back row with 18 digs.
With the season winding down, Holtan reflected on the past week and the team’s progress overall.
“Although we’ve had some tough losses, we plan to learn from them, leave them in the past, and look to our upcoming games to make improvements. We are continuing to work on having a gritty defensive line and capitalizing on opportunities to end sets and not let teams creep their way back in,” Holtan said.