Gannon University’s defending Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) volleyball champions kicked off their season going 3-1 at the Wayne State Invitational in Detroit Friday and Saturday.
The Knights’ first win was a 3-0 sweep of Ohio Dominican on Friday. Gannon followed it up with a 3-1 win over the University of Wisconsin-Parkside hours later.
Gannon’s first loss came the next day to Minnesota State University-Mankato, 3-2. The Knights’ final game and win was against Wayne State, beating the Warriors 3-1.
Senior Sara Crandall said the weekend was an ideal start for the team, and overall the team played great.
“Going forward I think we will continue to learn and work at getting better each and every day,” Crandall said. “We all worked hard and kept a learning mentality, and every year is a new team and early on in the season is the time to learn and grow as that new team.”
In game one against the Panthers of Ohio Dominican the Knights took control early, and remained there the entire game. The Panthers crept back but were not able to overtake Gannon. A couple of kills from senior Kelsey Ansec stopped any of Ohio Dominican’s last-minute momentum, and the Knights won 25-22.
In set two, the Panthers took a 7-2 lead early after three kills by junior Ciara Ralston. However, four errors and an ace from sophomore Carolyn Knollman set Gannon on its way to a 25-22 victory.
The third set was much like the first as Gannon remained on top the whole way home. Senior Maggie Wilhelm and Knollman set the pace combining for multiple kills for the Knights.
With the score at 7-2 sophomore Toni Leitshuh pushed Gannon’s agenda to 14-6 with a hat-trick of serve aces. Gannon finished off the Warriors after a Wayne State timeout, winning the third set 25-11.
In game two the Knights overtook Wisconsin-Parkside in four sets. Set one produced a score of 25-22 after a competitive match with the Rangers. Redshirt senior Rebekah Smith, Ansec, Wilhelm and Leitshuh helped set the foundation with early kills.
The Rangers took control of set two going up three points on the Knights. Gannon fought back and tied the score at 4-4 after a key kill by Ansec. From then on Gannon climbed its way to victory and forced a Ranger timeout with the score at 14-11 following a line drive delivered by Ansec adding to the damage. Gannon carried its momentum after the timeout and won 25-15.
Set three had the Rangers’ name all over it. The teams volleyed back and forth and settled at a score of 20-20. However, the Rangers had enough gusto to edge out the 25-22 win.
The final set of the day was much like the previous as both teams went back and forth for the entirety of the match. Gannon tied with the Rangers eight times before each team reached 10 points. From then on Gannon took control.
Leitshuh served up an ace producing a 15-12 tally. With the score at 17-13 the Knights saw some big moves from a new member of the squad. Freshman Ashley Kerestes had a key “Kerestes kill,” which set the pace for an 8-3 lead, and ultimately Gannon won 25-16.
Crandall mentioned that the team has six new freshmen and they are all fine players.
“Us upperclassmen are more than happy to have those six girls as our freshman class,” Crandall said. “They’re full of energy and talent.”
Unable to carry their momentum over from the previous day the Knights lost their first match to Minnesota State-Mankato. The plus side was that Gannon put up a good fight, taking the game to the most sets they saw in the invitational, and lost 3-2.
Gannon’s luck changed as it faced the host of the tournament Wayne State. The Knights won against the Warriors, 3-1. In match one the Warriors took the game early, but sophomore Ally Smith shifted the momentum in favor of the Knights with a kill.
The teams were tied at each digit between 10 and 15. Wayne State then regained a 20-15 edge, and Gannon climbed to a 24-23 score. However the Warriors took the final point to win the match.
The Knights took the next three sets to win the game. Leitshuh led the Knights with 13 kills and Smith added 11 kills coupled with seven digs. Gannon begins its season at 3-1 and tossed the Warriors their first loss to put them at 3-1 as well.
Up next the Knights will return to Erie for the Gannon-Mercyhurst Invitational. Game one is slated for 5 p.m. Friday against Glenville State. The Knights will then take on Hillsdale College at 7 p.m. Both games will be played at Gannon’s Hammermill Center.