Volleyball concludes tremendous season

Luke Siegle – Staff Writer

After winning the MIAC championship, the Gustavus women’s volleyball team headed to the regional tournament in Eau Claire last Wednesday, Nov. 10. The team is led by star fifth-year Seniors Kate Holtan, who was named MIAC player of the year, and Hailey Embacher, MIAC defensive player of the year. The women were fired up heading into their quarterfinal matchup with the University of Chicago, but understood they had to stick to their identity as a team to be successful. “Going into the regional tournament you know that anybody can beat anybody, so we definitely just took it one day at a time,” Holtan said.
With that mentality, the Gusties rolled against Chicago, winning in four sets. “We knew we just had to come out and take care of our things,” Embacher said. Early in the match, the Gusties did just that as they jumped in front 19-6 to virtually seal the first set. Chicago rebounded nicely however with a hard-fought 25-22 victory in the second set to even the score at one set apiece. In the third set, the Gusties took control of the match for good with a 25-22 set win that included 18 kills.
To end the night the Gusties turned to Holtan who turned in a 7 kill set which fueled the Gusties. Junior outside hitter Sarah Elliott secured the win for the Gusties with a kill for the final point to send the team to the semifinals. “That was a really nice match, we played really well together,” Elliott said.
Waiting for the Gusties in the semifinals was tournament host and the number one team in the region, Eau Claire. In the first set the teams traded blows early but Eau Claire managed to pull away in the latter stages and take the 1-0 lead. Set two was more of the same as the Gusties fell behind early and were not able to recover. However, in the third set, the Gusties came to life. 9 Kills between Holtan and Elliott gave the Gusties the advantage and allowed them to get a 25-16 victory to keep the match alive.
In the fourth set the Gusties raced out to an early 8-5 lead, but a 10-0 run by Eau Claire put the score at 15-8. The Gusties fought hard but were unable to make up the deficit, ultimately losing by a score of 25-16. “We went out trying our best and although it wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, I think everyone was proud of the way we finished, and making it as far as we did is a huge accomplishment,” Holtan said.
A huge accomplishment indeed, as the Gusties were one of the last 32 teams remaining in the nation. Overall this season, the Gusties registered a 27-6 record, including an impressive 11-0 record at home.
“I am extremely proud to be a Gustie and extremely proud to be a part of the Gustavus volleyball team and my teammates this year. We talked about how this has been one of the most fun years we have ever had as seniors with this team.” Embacher said.
“As a whole, I think this season has been the most fun that I’ve ever had playing volleyball. Volleyball has been the highlight of my days and I felt an immediate sense of welcoming,” First-year Brynn Smith said.
Given the fact that this season was even possible also meant a lot to the upperclassmen who were unable to play last season due to COVID-19. “Having the opportunity again with COVID, being able to be in the gym, all of us together, not in pods, along with being able to have our parents and fans at the games. We were so appreciative of the people who showed up,” Embacher said. “It was really amazing to be able to have this season together where we just got to compete. It was an amazing team to be a part of, both in the gym and out of it, ” Elliott said.
From the 27-6 overall record to the MIAC playoff matches played in front of a packed house to a regional victory against the University of Chicago, this team really put their footprint on the future of Gustavus Women’s volleyball. When asked what has meant the most to her throughout her Gustavus career, Holtan ended with this: “It truly is the teams and the friendships and the lessons that I have learned both on and off the court from my coaches and all the teammates that I have encountered throughout my time here. This year was super special.”

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