Luke Siegle – Staff Writer
The Gustavus volleyball team traveled to the Twin Cities for a crucial conference game on October 2 Saturday night against nationally-ranked Bethel. In front of a raucous Bethel crowd the Gusties took care of business early and never looked back as they swept Bethel 3-0.
“We came in with a strategy and just focused on executing that,” Senior outside hitter Kate Holtan said after the game. The Gusties strategy seemed to work. In the first set the Gusties were in complete control, dispatching Bethel 25-15. Sophomore outside hitter Marlee Turn was especially productive as she racked up 9 kills in the first set alone. “We responded to the noise and used it as fuel,” Turn said in response to the question as to what got her and her team going early.
The second set ended up being much closer yet the Gusties remained calm. At one point the score was knotted at 20 apiece, but two big points by Holtan stretched the lead to 22-20. Bethel attempted to rally, but it was too late. A pair of late kills by Turn sealed the deal and the Gusties narrowly won, 25-22.
“In that second set, even though it was really close, we felt we were winning by ten points when actually we were only winning by two. We had such a calm, controlled and level-headed response to the points,” Senior libero Hailey Embacher said. The confidence she felt helped the team all night to perform at the highest level.
To begin set three the Gusties raced out to a 7-0 lead thanks to a couple of kills by Holtan. The team continued to have the upper hand in the third and ended up securing a comfortable 25-16 victory. “That was the quietest we had ever seen the Bethel gym, especially during their homecoming,” said Turn.
However, one group that was not quiet was the Gustie bench. “We brought our own energy even though we didn’t have stands full of our own fans. Our bench brought a lot of energy to us on the court and then we brought the energy back to them. It was a really good flow,” Embacher said. The bench support was all the team needed to get energized in a tough atmosphere and it proved important as the Gusties needed everyone to be on their game in order to secure the win.
This win was huge for the Gusties, but they know as they look ahead there are plenty of tough conference opponents on the horizon. “Our conference is tough. We say everyday, anyone can beat anyone,” Holtan said. The team believes that even with tough games they can get through it together. Holtan and Embacher feel that continuing to give their younger teammates, like Turn– who had not experienced a normal year due to Covid-19–advice and guidance will be a key step.
“We’ve just been trying to talk to the underclassmen all along about what a typical season is like, so that when it came to this year they were best prepared and ready for the experience,” Embacher said. Holtan echoed those statements and added, “It’s been really fun to finally get the chance to compete with this group because we have a lot of talented underclassmen and a pretty big senior class too. It’s a fun mixture,” Holtan said.
This talented group will look to continue their recent success and build on their 15-4 record overall, and 3-1 record in MIAC play. Our coach always says, “To be us,” Holtan said with a laugh. Although funny, the team knows that those words will ring true as the back half of the season begins. Their goal is to win the National Championship and to get there they know it will take strong games like the one they played against Bethel. The Gusties will look to continue to gain momentum with their strong play this week as they host Augsburg on Wednesday and both St. Olaf and UW La Crosse on Saturday.