After the Gannon University volleyball team finished off the regular season on a win streak, the Knights went on to defeat Clarion, 3-1, Tuesday night in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Tournament quarterfinals at the Hammermill Center.
Gannon won the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-17, making it seem as though the Knights would sweep Clarion. However, the Golden Eagles came back to win the third set, 25-18, to send it to a fourth.
The tables turned on Clarion as Gannon won the final set, 25-18, sealing a 3-1 victory.
With the win, Gannon moves on to host the PSAC Final Four matches this weekend at the Hammermill Center.
Gannon, which improved to 27-5 overall on the year, will take on West Chester at 7 p.m. Friday after the completion of the Pitt-Johnstown/Edinboro game, which starts at 5 p.m.
The winners of the two Friday night matches will play Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Hammermill and compete to advance to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional.
On Friday, Gannon made quick work of Slippery Rock to become the first PSAC school to reach 25 wins on the season, 25-19, 25-17, 25-23. Saturday was a different test, but still produced the same result as the Knights beat Edinboro, 17-25, 30-28, 20-25, 25-23, 15-13.
The win enabled Gannon to finish PSAC play with a 15-3 mark.
Ally Smith secured her ninth double-double of the season against the Rock when she compiled a team-high 16 kills while also throwing in 11 digs and two service aces.
Kelsey Ansec distributed 13 kills to continue her 10th-straight double-digit kill match for the Knights.
Four Gannon players padded their own stat sheets while issuing double-digit digs. Sara Crandall led the way with 15 digs while Toni Leitshuh added 14. Ally Smith and Maggie Wilhelm finished with 11 and 10, respectively.
The Knights took control early in the first two sets before needing to work a slight comeback in the third. Gannon trailed 23-22 late in the third set before Smith took the lead with back-to-back kills. Ashley Kerestes finished off the set with a third consecutive kill to take the set, and match, 25-23.
On Saturday, Gannon closed out its 2017 regular season with a victory against Edinboro on Senior Day. The victory clinched the No. 2 seed for the PSAC Tournament.
The Knights honored seven seniors — Ansec, Brianna Brennan, Crandall, Anne-Mari Kaur, Rebekah Smith, Jordan Talevski and Wilhelm — who played in their final regular-season matches of their career.
Crandall said she is thankful Gannon volleyball has given her the opportunity to grow into the student-athlete she has always hoped to be. She is very grateful to have had four years in a program that strives for excellence, teaches discipline and values family.
“Gannon volleyball has been the best part of my college experience and I will truly miss everything about it,” Crandall said.
“I cannot thank my coaches and all the teammates I have had along the way enough, for challenging me and supporting me throughout my years in this program.”
Wilhelm said that Gannon volleyball has helped her grow as a player and person on and off the court.
“Gannon volleyball has been a family, a home-away-from-home kind of feel, and I have learned how to be a better volleyball player, leader and persistent hard worker on and off the court because of the inspiration and support of this team,” Wilhelm said.
Ally Smith produced her 10th double-double of the season, including a team-high 18 kills and 17 digs, in the win over Edinboro.
Ashley Beyers compiled a season-high 54 assists topping her previous season-high of 45 against Slippery Rock the night before.
Ansec and Rebekah Smith each delivered 16 kills on Senior Day; two of Smith’s kills came toward the end of the fifth set.
The first four sets were split between both teams before the deciding fifth set. One of the aforementioned Smith kills put Gannon up 13-10 late before Edinboro rallied for two straight points.
An Ally Smith kill and a Kerestes block sealed the deal for the Knights taking the set, 15-13.