Bethel & Gustavus set up Volleyball Playoff championship rematch

Bethel & Gustavus set up Volleyball Playoff championship rematch

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – What a night.

The 2016 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Volleyball Playoff semifinals certainly delivered on drama Thursday with a pair of ESPN-worthy classics. No. 5-seeded Bethel pulled off its second road upset in three days – this time over the tournament's top seed – and No. 2 Gustavus rallied from an 0-2 deficit to win a five set thriller. The result is an exact replica of the 2015 title match, with the Royals headed to St. Peter, Minn., to take on the Gusties in a highly anticipated rematch.

| 2016 MIAC Volleyball Playoffs |

Bethel (19-10) announced its upset intentions early against top-seeded Augsburg (18-10), which went 11-0 in MIAC play to win the regular season title. The Royals won the first two set, then the Auggies stormed back to make it 2-1 and the fourth set couldn't have included much more drama, as Bethel scored a 30-28 win to close out the match 3-1. No. 3 St. Thomas (22-8) used the exact same script, winning the first two sets on the road to put Gustavus (22-7) in a major hole, but the Gusties rallied to win each of the final three sets in a remarkable 3-2 comeback win.

| Box Score |
Just 48 hours after it upset No. 4 Saint Mary's on the road, the Royals were at it again with the biggest stunner of the Playoffs thus far, as they stormed out to a 2-0 lead then took the fourth set in dramatic fashion to earn a 3-1 win, a spot in the finals, and bring regular-season champion and top-seed Augsburg's playoff run to an abrupt end.

For the first two sets, it was Bethel that played like the No. 1 seed with identical 25-16 wins in both to move just one set from victory. However, Augsburg came to life in the third set and rallied for a 25-22 win to send it to a fourth. The Auggies came within a point of forcing a fifth set four times and fended off match point once before Tina Hoppe slammed home back-to-back kills for a 30-28 win to finish off the semifinal upset.

Hoppe was the Royals' offensive star with 24 kills and a .353 hitting percentage, and her sister Carlee Hoppe, Callie Sinclair and Karin Canakes each added nine kills in the win. Holly Ellwanger handed out 34 assists and Katie Lubben had 18 assists. Dominique Dabu led the defense with 33 digs, Carlee Hoppee had 18 and Sinclair added 16.

Courtney Lemke led the Augsburg offense, handing out 45 assists and added 13 digs, three kills and two blocks. Jaelyn Arndt had 16 kills to lead the Auggie attackers, and Katie Noble added nine kills. Macey Terhell finished with 26 digs and Taylor Linn had 23 digs and four blocks in the heartbreaking loss.

NO. 2 GUSTAVUS 3, NO. 3 ST. THOMAS 2 | Box Score |
In a similar script, St. Thomas stormed onto Gustavus' court and took the first two sets – the second in thrilling fashion – only to see the Gusties regain their footing and rally for three-straight set wins and the semifinal victory, as the defending Playoff champs earned the right to host the final for the second-straight season.

The Tommies took a 25-16 win in the first set, then outlasted Gustavus 29-27 in the second to move just a point from the upset and the championship match. The Gusties started their comeback with a 25-22 win in the third set, then followed it up with another 25-22 win in the fourth to send it to a decisive fifth set. There, the teams basically traded points until it was tied 9-9, and that's when Gustavus took over. The home team won the next five points to take a 14-9 lead, then finished off a 15-10 win to complete the comeback and the 3-2 semifinal victory.

Gustie setter Nora Holtan was named MIAC Player-of-the-Year Wednesday, and played every bit like it Thursday with a triple-double of 56 assists, 12 kills and 11 digs to go along with a .393 hitting percentage and three blocks. Holtan helped six different attackers register at least eight kills, led by Lauren Hanson's 17 and Shaefer Rupar's 14. Brittany Luethmers had 24 digs and Abby Leitch added 22 digs in the win, and Rupar added four blocks to her stat line.

St. Thomas setter Katharine Mallak was just one assist behind Holtan, as she dished out 55 with seven digs in the loss. Brooke Reichart had a big match with 19 kills, Whitney Lloyd added 12 kills and Ellie Etzell added 11. Ellie Meyer had 26 digs, Madie Kroehler added 21 digs and Lloyd, Etzell and Grace Duffy each had four blocks.  

Thursday's wild semifinals set up a rematch of the epic 2015 MIAC Playoff championship match, with Bethel visiting Gustavus. A year ago, the Gusties prevailed in an intense 3-1 thriller, but both qualified for the NCAA Tournament and the Royals made a run all the way to the Elite Eight. All that postseason experience will be back on the same court Saturday at 7 p.m. with the MIAC Playoff championship plaque and the MIAC's automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament on the line once again.

This season, the two met way back on Sept. 14 in the home opener for both teams, with Gustavus pulling out a dramatic 3-2 home win, so with that meeting and last season's Playoff final as evidence, Saturday is shaping up to be another special night.

The MIAC has a home page dedicated to the 2016 MIAC Volleyball Playoffs, containing schedules, links and information on each of the six teams in the field. Throughout the tournament, the page will be updated with scores, stats, updated schedules and more. Fans can also follow the action on the MIAC Scoreboard or on the free MIAC mobile app. Connect throughout the Playoffs on social media through the MIAC's FacebookInstagram or Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #MIACVB.


Quarterfinals | Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 | 7 p.m. |
No. 3 St. Thomas def. No. 6 Concordia, 3-0 | Box Score | Recap |
No. 5 Bethel def. No. 4 Saint Mary's, 3-1 | Box Score | Recap |

Semifinals | Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016 | 7 p.m. |
No. 5 Bethel def. No. 1 Augsburg, 3-1 | Box Score | 
No. 2 Gustavus def. No. 3 St. Thomas, 3-2 | Box Score | 

Championship | Saturday, Nov. 5, 2016 | 7 p.m. |
No. 5 Bethel at No. 2 Gustavus | St. Peter, Minn. |

| 2016 MIAC Volleyball Playoffs