The No. 5 Gannon University women’s basketball aims to take down the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown to avenge its only loss of the season on Saturday to Edinboro University in overtime, 75-72.
The Knights currently hold a 17-1 overall record with a 6-1 mark in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference under their first-year coach Jim Brunelli.
One key factor in Gannon’s success thus far has been senior guard Kelley Sundberg who leads the Knights with 30.4 average minutes logged per game and assists with 5.1 per game – while leading the team in many different aspects.
“Sundberg is a coach’s dream,” Brunelli said. “As a point guard, she is an extension of the head coach out there on the court.
“She is the engine that drives this team. Her leadership on and off the court is phenomenal.”
Brunelli explained that Sundberg played a role in the new head coach coming to Gannon and more importantly gaining the trust and respect of the Knights.
“Sundberg was very instrumental in helping me become comfortable with Gannon,” Brunelli said. “She was selected as a member of the search committee that hired me.”
Sundberg said that she was proud of what her team has accomplished in the wake of a new coaching staff.
“You hear a lot about teams that have coaching changes that can’t recover from it,” Sundberg said. “So as a team, we all needed to take on even more proactive roles to make sure it was the smoothest transition possible.
“My teammates have done a great job embracing all the changes that have happened. I’m so lucky to spend every day with such a unique and fun group.”
Brunelli also said that the leadership role was aided by senior forward Jen Papich and junior guard Doriyon Glass stepping up as the season rolls on.
Papich leads the team in blocks with 26, is tied for the lead in steals with 31 and averages nearly 13 points per game. Glass said she is currently injured, but she is working hard to get back on the court with her teammates.
Papich said the team is looking forward to its 5:30 p.m. matchup Wednesday at the Hammermill Center against Pitt Johnstown because the team is hungry to get back in the win column.
“Coming off our first loss of the season, our mentality has not changed,” Papich said. “We focus on each day, each practice, each second that we get to play the game that we love.
“One game does not define our season or who we are as a team. If anything this loss has served to refocus us, allowing us to cherish every opportunity we earn on this journey.”
Brunelli said the Knights learned a great deal from their overtime loss to Edinboro, which catapulted the Fighting Scots to a 6-0 PSAC record.
“We as a team had to make a commitment to being better defensively and valuing every possession because we all know that is what separates wins from losses,” Brunelli said. “We also gained a greater appreciation of the game in that every second is crucial, and that we must treat it that way.”