Parker Burman – Staff Writer
With another year worth of Gustavus athletics almost in the books, it is time to look back on all the feats of Gustie athletes and their teams. In arguably the most dominant all around year in Gustavus athletics, students and alumni have reason to celebrate.
To kick off the school year and return to fall sports, football set the tone for a whole year’s worth of Gustie sports. With a high-flying offense and plenty of highlight reel plays, this year’s homecoming game was packed full of action and fun for current and former students alike. Sophomore quarterback George Sandven led the Gustavus offense with four touchdown passes to help put the Gusties up 61-0 at half time. With contributions from all sides of the ball the Gusties put together a 77-7 victory over St. Scholastica. When the season ended the Gusties finished third in the MIAC with a 7-3 overall record and 6-2 in conference play, marking the third consecutive year with seven victories last done by the 1978-80 teams.
“Throughout the course of the year, we got better from week to week on both sides of the ball and as a team, we grew in many aspects on and off the field. We had a couple of tough losses during the season but we never got down on ourselves or blamed one another. We were always resilient and focused on the next game which is always the most important,” said Sandven.
Not to be out done, the women’s basketball team had one of its best seasons ever, finishing with the wins in program history with a record of 26-3. The winning did not stop for the Gusties as they knocked off Concordia to secure the MIAC Playoff Championship in a 79-57 win. The women would advance all the way to the NCAA second round after a 84-68 victory over Ohio Wesleyan before suffering a defeat against UW-Whitewater.
“This year went really well for us, we had high expectations coming into the year. We just went out there on the court everyday and just tried to get the job done, and tried not to put too much pressure on ourselves,” said Senior guard Anna Sanders.
Over in the pool, the Gustavus swim and dive teams finished another successful season at the MIAC Championships. The men secured their fourth straight MIAC Championship while the women wound up finishing in second after some great swimming. In the Championship Junior Peyton Richardson won the 200 yard backstroke with a time of 1:52.75, and Senior Ellen Hofstede won the 100 yard free with a NCAA B cut time of 51.44.
“Overall I was really happy with how our team’s season went this year. Both the men’s and women’s teams were faced with challenges throughout the season and more specifically at our championship meet. Yet we exceeded those challenges,” said Richardson.
Men’s soccer had one of its best seasons in years as they advanced all the way to the NCAA Quarterfinal before falling to host Chicago 1-0. The Gusties finished the year ranked as the No. 5 team in the nation after going 15-2-6 on the season while being led by Senior Goalkeeper Wesley Sanders who kept the Gusties in both the NCAA second and third rounds that both went to exciting shootouts. It was the first time Gustavus Men’s Soccer had made the quarterfinal since 2005.
“It wasn’t always perfect but we managed to accomplish some great things this year,” said Sanders.
Volleyball once again punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament after a thrilling 3-2 set victory over conference rival St. Olaf in the MIAC Championship. The title was their second in a row after defeating rival Bethel the season before in the MIAC Championship. The No. 14 nationally ranked Gusties would win their NCAA Regional Quarterfinal match 3-1 over UW-Eau Claire before falling to UW-Whitewater in the NCAA Regional Semifinal.
“I think this past season was amazing. We won the MIAC and competed in the NCAA tournament, which was so fun and rewarding. We made so many memories as a team and grew so much as a team. I am grateful for all the fans that showed up and supported us in the MIAC playoffs. Having that huge crowd was very surreal and I feel very lucky to be a Gustie student athlete,” said Junior Marlee Turn.
Perhaps the best season of all involved the Gustavus women’s hockey team that ended the year as the best team in the country after a thrilling triple overtime thriller against Amherst in the National Championship game. After great careers from Seniors Katie McCoy, Tina Press, Kayla Vrieze, and Gabby Slykas they finally got a chance to call themselves national champions. The victory secured the Gusties their first title in program history after having the best regular season in program history at 27-3. Coach Mike Carroll, the second-winningest coach in DIII women’s hockey history, finally earned the elusive title in his 492 career victory.
Gustavus softball had its best season since 2017 as they finished with a record of 24-18. The Gusties fell to MIAC Regular Season Champions Bethel 1-0 in the MIAC Playoff Semifinals. Senior pitcher Piper Otto threw six innings of one run ball with seven strikeouts, but her dominance on the mound was not enough as the Gustavus offense couldn’t get going.
“I think we proved a lot of people wrong and showed that Gustavus softball can be competitive with any team that we play,” said Otto.
Both the Gustavus men and women’s tennis teams had very successful seasons as the men won their 12th consecutive MIAC Playoff Championship and the women took second in the MIAC. The men’s victory in the MIAC Playoff propelled them to their 35th NCAA Tournament appearance in program history receiving the opportunity to host the NCAA Regional Championships, falling to Case Western in the quarter finals. The women finished their year with a 5-2 loss in the MIAC Playoff Championship to rival Carleton.
The Gustavus Women’s Track and Field team wrapped up their spring season by claiming their second straight MIAC Outdoor Championship. Future Gustavus Hall of Famer Birgen Nelson won the 100-hurdles with a time 13.37, the second fastest all-conditions time in DIII history only trailing her own record of 13.32 earlier in the year. With nearly a dozen school records, all-conference selections and a National Championship under her belt, she will end her Gustavus career this spring as one of greatest Gustavus athletes ever.
“Every year I have had major gains and improved my marks and this year was no different. I’ve just kept the momentum going and never let off the gas,” said Nelson.
A team looking for more continued success, the Gustavus baseball team got just that after finishing the season 28-14 to tie the program record for wins, set last season. Gustavus seeded No. 1 in the conference dropped their first playoff game to defending champion Bethel before beating both Concordia and Saint John’s to match up with Bethel in the Championship. The Gusties were unable to break through and fell for a second straight year to Bethel in the Championship game. Fifth-year infielder Jack Hanson’s potential Hall of Fame Gustavus career came to a close with the loss in the MIAC Championship, but he will be remembered as one of the best players in Gustavus baseball history. His career ends with him as the program leader in at-bats, 215 hits (2nd), 144 runs (1st), 37 doubles (7th), 29 home runs (3rd) and 137 RBIs (3rd).
“It’s pretty surreal looking back to all of the individual successes I have had in my 5 years here. My individual successes are cool and all but I really am more proud of how our team performed throughout my years here and how this team became successful and will continue to be successful for a very long time,” said Hanson.
With just a few titles left undecided the Gusties hope to continue to build off of a strong year. The Gusties have accumulated multiple MIAC titles, dozens of All-Conference and All-American Honors, and a National Championship victory. All of these point towards another successful season in Gustie sports in 2023-2024.
Writing for the Weekly was one of the best experiences I have had here on campus. I loved interacting with the athletics community and hanging out with the editors every Wednesday. After graduating, I plan on taking the summer off before beginning full-time employment with Epic Systems as a Project Manager. This position will allow me to use the skills I honed at the Weekly to improve electronic medical record-keeping. Enjoy your summers!