Teddy Kaste & Julia Klein-
Gustavus’ volleyball program is a certified dynasty. This past Saturday, Gustavus volleyball hosted St. Olaf on the Gus Young court for the MIAC championship match. This game was packed, as students crammed into the gymnasium in support of Gusties. Gustavus came into this match 10-0 in the MIAC, and only having lost one set in that 10-0 stretch. St. Olaf was not intimidated by the acumen of the Gustavus women; they won the first and fourth sets making it 2-2 going into the final game. After a back-and-forth fifth set, Gustavus won 17-15 and consequently won the MIAC championship for the second year in a row. They also recorded their second undefeated MIAC season in a row.
The anticipation for this game was high as students flooded into the gym, many sporting shirts honoring Jori Jones, a Gustavus student and hockey player who tragically passed away in a car accident this past summer. The crowd was ready to watch the Gustavus women take it to St. Olaf, however, not to be intimidated, Olaf started the game on an 8-2 run taking some air out of the hostile Gustavus crowd.
The Gustavus women were not deterred by their slow start; they went on a massive run to reclaim the lead in the set, which they held onto to win the first set 25-22 in a comeback victory. After a slow start, Gustavus dominated the rest of that set and looked to have all the momentum on their side.
If Gustavus had all the momentum, nobody told the Oles as they came out in the second set going back and forth with Gustavus, trading points, until about halfway through the set when the Oles rattled off eight consecutive points, taking control of the set, and eventually winning it 25-20.
This Ole win tied the match 1-1, and made for a critical game 3. Game 3 was another back-and-forth affair with Gustavus leading by a small margin most of the match. The Oles had a late comeback, however, and extended the set past the typical score of 25, as you must win the set by two. During these crucial moments, you could cut the tension with a knife, but thanks to a set-winning ace by Sophomore Mesa Tweet, Gustavus won the 3rd set making the match 2-1, Gustavus.
After such an intense third set, it felt again as if Gustavus held all the momentum. The Oles, however, were extraordinarily resilient, playing a stellar fourth set in which they were able to pull away at the end and win the set 25-21. This set the stage for a win-big-or-go-home fifth set, where both teams would put it all on the line.
The Oles came out hot in the fifth set absolutely dominating the start of this game, taking an 8-4 lead. In the fifth set, the score only went to 15, so Gustavus’ backs were up against the wall. The following point was crucial, but what followed was an extremely long point, with both teams making incredible diving saves multiple times to keep the play going. Finally, after what felt like an eternity, an Ole finally broke and made an attack error, and Gustavus won the point, which sent the crowd into a frenzy, and you could feel the momentum swing in the gym.
St. Olaf promptly called a timeout after the point, in an attempt to slow the momentum of the Gusties, but the Gusties won four consecutive points to tie the set. After battling back and forth, the Oles held a 14-13 lead, just one singular point away from the MIAC championship. The Gusties, however, held strong, won the point, and extended the game. Gustavus reclaimed the lead from Senior Lauren Klaith’s kill and won the game on the following point. The student section rejoiced as Gustavus’ volleyball team claimed the MIAC title.
Sophomore Libero, and 2022 MIAC rookie of the year, Maren Sundberg stated on the feeling of victory, “It was indescribable really, I’m just glad we could pull all the way through and do this for all of the seniors on the team and for our school.”
Junior Brynn Smith reflected on the match, “I think that was the closest match I have ever played in. Last year’s championship was also very close, but it was even more back and forth this time.”
The women will travel to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to take on #11-ranked Calvin in the NCAA tournament. Junior Defensive Specialist Payton Auseth stated, “I really think we can make it far this year due to how competitive our gym is every day. We are all on the same page in the fact that our end goal is to win regionals and travel to California for the Elite Eight, and we all truly believe we can make it far.”
Everyone circle November 16th on your calendars, at 4:30 p.m. the Gustavus women’s volleyball team will look to crush Calvin and go dancing into the NCAA tournament.