Gusties, Bennies rally back in five-set thrillers to set up MIAC Volleyball Playoff Championship

2018 MIAC Championships

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Both teams found themselves down 2-1 heading into their respective fourth sets on Thursday night, but top-seeded Gustavus Adolphus and No. 2 seed Saint Benedict each rallied back to claim 3-2 victories in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Volleyball Playoffs and set up a 1-vs-2 matchup in the Conference title match on Saturday night.

2018 MIAC Volleyball Playoffs |

This will be the first time in MIAC Playoff history that the Gusties and Bennies will meet in the volleyball championship match. The two programs have only met in the conference postseason three times, with Saint Ben's topping Gustavus in the semifinals in 2006 and the quarterfinals in 2011 and 2014. CSB is the defending MIAC Playoff champion, having defeated St. Thomas in last year's title match, while the Gusties won the previous two Playoff titles.

NO. 1 GUSTAVUS 3, NO. 5 AUGSBURG 2 | Box Score |
The No. 1 seed in the MIAC Playoffs kept its Conference record unblemished with a 3-2 victory over Augsburg in the semifinals on Thursday. The Gusties jumped out to a 1-0 lead after a 25-19 first set; however, Augsburg battled to wins in the second and third to turn up the pressure on the regular season MIAC champs. Gustavus responded with the resolve of a champion, claiming a 25-20 win in set four before rolling to a 15-6 title match-clinching victory in the final frame. Four Gusties posted double-doubles in the match, led by three-time MIAC Player of the Year Nora Holtan, who assisted 47 times with another 17 digs to her name. Her younger sister, Kate Holtan, added 10 kills and 24 digs, while Lauren Hanson went for 16 kills and 10 digs, and Hanna Albers tallied 11 kills and 15 digs. Augsburg setter Morgan Malley recorded 43 assists and 17 digs, while teammate Jade Boysen had 12 kills and a .320 hitting percentage with eight block-assists in the match. Gustavus is now headed back to the Playoff Championship for the third time in four seasons and fourth time overall. The Gusties are 2-1 all-time in MIAC Playoff Championships, having won the title in 2014 and 2015 after coming in as the runner-up in 2008.

NO. 2 SAINT BENEDICT 3, NO. 3 ST. THOMAS 2Box Score |
Saint Ben's bounced back from a first-set loss and a 25-23 heartbreaker in the third frame to advance to the MIAC title match for the second year in a row with a 3-2 victory over St. Thomas on Thursday night. The Bennies held the Tommies to 16 points in the second set and 13 in the fourth before thwarting a UST comeback bid in the fifth with a 15-13 win to punch their ticket back to the MIAC Championship. Setter Katie Koch had a career night for CSB, logging 50 assists for the first time ever to go along with 16 digs for her 15th double-double of the year. Defensive specialist Haley Lavalle also came up big for the Bennies, collecting a career-high 36 digs in the five sets, while Madison Weiss registered a career-best 21 kills while hitting .429 on the night. Katharine Mallak surpassed 55 assists for the second time in less than a week, posting 58 on Thursday night to lead the Tommies. CSB will now advance to the MIAC Playoff Championship for the eighth time ever and the second time in as many seasons. The Bennies are 2-5 all-time in MIAC volleyball playoff championships and enter the 2018 title match as the defending champs.

CHAMPIONSHIP SET FOR SATURDAY
The top-seeded Gusties will host the No. 2 seeded Bennies in St. Peter, Minn. on Saturday night. The MIAC Playoff champion will receive the postseason championship plaque and the Conference's automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament. Match time is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.

The MIAC has a homepage dedicated to the 2018 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, on the free MIAC mobile app, and on social media through the MIAC's FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts.


2018 MIAC VOLLEYBALL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Quarterfinals | Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2018 | 7:00 p.m. |
No. 3 St. Thomas 3, No. 6 St. Olaf 0 | Box Score |
No. 5 Augsburg 3, No. 4 Bethel 2 | Box Score |

Semifinals | Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 | 7:00 p.m. |
No. 1 Gustavus  3, No. 5 Augsburg 2 | Box Score |
No. 2 Saint Benedict 3, No. 3 St. Thomas 2  | Box Score |

Championship | Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018 | 7:00 p.m. |
No. 2 Saint Benedict at No. 1 Gustavus | Live Stats | Video |


2018 MIAC Volleyball Playoffs |