Parker Burman – Staff Writer
This weekend the number 14 ranked Gustavus volleyball team hosted conference rival St. Olaf for a chance at the 2022 MIAC Championship. In the regular season the only match for the Gusties that went all five sets was against St. Olaf, so destiny had the championship going the same way. After the final point had been scored, the Gusties were victorious with the 3-2 victory for their second title in as many years.
Prior to the MIAC Championship, season awards were announced for the conference and Gustavus boasted a star-studded roster and coaching staff. Junior Marlee Turn took home Offensive Player of the Year after a dominating season, First-year Maren Sundberg claimed Rookie of the Year, and coach Rachelle Sherden was awarded Coach of the Year. All-Conference awards were awarded to Turn, Sundberg, Senior Sarah Elliott, and Junior Kasie Tweet.
“It is very surreal and I am very honored to be named MIAC Offensive Player of the Year and get all conference! I couldn’t achieve it without the help of my teammates and coaches, and this award goes to show all the hard work I and the team have put in,” said Turn.
“Winning back-to-back MIAC Championships was very exciting and a goal our team had from the beginning of the season. Playing in front of our crowd and against a very competitive team made the win even more special. Being named All-Conference was an honor as well. I am happy that I am able to contribute to the overall performance of the team,” said Tweet.
In the first set the Gusties quickly fell behind to the Ole offense, at one point trailing 7-3. Yet, Gustavus battled back, tying at 10-10 on a service ace from Turn before trailing again and tying it at 17-17. The back and forth struggle continued as it was tied 24-24 before Sundberg hit on the service ace to make it 25-24, which was followed by an Ole error to secure the Gustie first set victory.
Set two developed similarly, but with the Gusties leading for most of the set. The Oles would battle back and tie it up repeatedly before the Gustavus offense would rebuild their lead. With an offense led by Senior Sydney Olson and Tweet, the Gusties secured the set two win 25-20.
“It was a good feeling being up two sets to none, however, we knew we could not be comfortable with that. St. Olaf is a great team, and they proved that by battling back in the next two sets,” said Elliot.
With a 2-0 set lead, the Gusties were looking for the knockout punch to secure the sweep and a championship. Yet this was not to be, as St. Olaf’s offense and defense combined to shut down the Gustavus attack on the way to a 25-18 defeat. After being tied 7-7 the Oles took the lead and did not give it back as they went on an 18-11 run.
Once again in set four the Gusties had a chance to put it away for another championship season, but St. Olaf continued to fend off Gustavus. Both sides traded points, getting locked at 10-10, 16-16, and 24-24 before St. Olaf finished off Gustavus to force a fifth set.
“I think the biggest focus our team had after the fourth set was remaining calm, sticking to our game plan, and staying disciplined. We knew that if we were disciplined and gritty, that we would come out on top,” said Tweet.
“Going into the fifth set, it’s an entirely even playing field. We knew we had to come out strong from the start and give it all we had the last 15-points of the match,” said Elliot.
With 15 points being all that separated the Gusties from a title, nothing was going to stop the high-powered Gustavus offense that had carried them all season long. With the help of two service aces from Olson and one from Sophomore Payton Auseth, Gustavus showed their dominance for the 15-9 victory.
“The feeling right away after winning another MIAC title is pure joy and triumph. I am so proud of our team this year, and getting to prove that with another title back to back years is so special. I’m very grateful to be a part of this team and experience something so remarkable with all my best friends,” said Turn.
“One thing I love about our team is that we come into the season with high expectations because we believe that if we choose to give 100% of our effort in everything we do, that we can go far in our season. We all come in ready to work, and there has not been a time in these past two years where I haven’t believed that we could win the MIAC playoffs and go to the NCAA tournament,” said Auseth.
With the victory at home in the MIAC Championship, the Gusties will now head into the NCAA in the pursuit of a national championship.