If you ever get the chance to watch a Gannon University volleyball game, you will understand why Ally Smith, the Knights’ standout outside hitter, has so many accolades.
The proof is in the playing.
Smith, a junior from Penfield, N.Y., has been one of the key factors in helping 20th-ranked Gannon build an overall record of 26-1 and a 15-1 mark in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play following Tuesday night’s 3-0 victory over rival Mercyhurst at the Hammermill Center.
The 25-18, 25-20, 25-23 triumph enabled the Knights to extend their winning streak to 15 games.
Smith helped lead the way to the win over Mercyhurst, as she collected 14 kills, 13 digs and three service aces.
Ashley McClung also finished with 14 kills for Gannon, while Ashley Beyers had 39 assists and three blocks.
Smith has been playing volleyball for 12 years now, and she keeps getting better every day.
As a sophomore, Smith set eight career highs, including 20 kills against Shippensburg, 56 attempts against Florida Southern, 39 digs against Lindenwood and 21.5 points against Shippensburg.
“I play for the love of the game but it’s an honor to get those career highs,” Smith said. “But it’s not something that I focus on.”
Volleyball is something that Smith has always enjoyed playing.
When she was younger she often hit the ball around with her brother, who also played the sport.
Smith said that is where her passion for the sport began.
During Smith’s senior year at Webster Schroeder High School, she traveled to Gannon to meet the team and coach Matt Darling before making her decision on where to attend college.
Smith said that Gannon had what she was looking for.
“I didn’t know anything about Gannon, but when I met the team they were so nice and that was the sole reason that I came,” she said.
Darling, in his 12th year as coach of the Knights, had nothing but good things to say about the 5-foot-9 Smith.
“Ally is exactly the kind of player that I love to coach,” Darling said. “She’s talented, athletic, loves to compete and win, and she’s also a great kid from a great family.”
In addition to her career highs last year, Smith received Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Northwest Division player of the week honors four times and was named to the All-PSAC second team.
She ranked second on the team in kills (351) and points (414) and third in both service aces (37) and digs (456).
This year, she is third in kills and points, and fourth in digs.
“I think Ally is one of the best outside hitters in the PSAC, and last year she showed that she can play with anyone in the country,” Darling said.
Even though proof is in the statistics for Smith, she also brings strengths that can’t be measured by numbers, Darling said.
“Her greatest strengths are the way that her smile brings up her teammates and the way her love for the game makes her such a joy to have in the gym every day,” he said.
When Smith first arrived at Gannon, she came in undecided in terms of her academic major, but within the week found her niche.
Smith is an early childhood education major, and when she isn’t on the court, she is in the classroom.
“I get to teach students and watch them grow,” she said. “I love working with children and helping them learn life skills they will need.”
People who know Smith off the court, like her roommate Natalee Junker, a junior middle level education major, say she gives her all to whatever she’s doing.
“She is a great player because it is very clear how committed to her team and the game she is both on and off the court,” Junker said.
The Knights will close out the regular season this weekend on the road, traveling to meet Slippery Rock in a 7 p.m. match Friday and then taking on Edinboro at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The PSAC Tournament quarterfinals will take place Tuesday. The location and game times were unavailable as of Tuesday night.