Volleyball team loses to Wheeling Jesuit in NCAA opening round

In their second consecutive NCAA playoff appearance, the Gannon University women’s volleyball team fell short in its first round game against Wheeling Jesuit University, losing 3-1 on Nov. 19.

(Gannonsports.com) Junior blocker Kara Cullen spikes the ball over the net in a match for the Gannon University women's volleyball team. Cullen was named to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region All-Tournament team for her performance against Wheeling Jesuit University in the NCAA tournament. Gannon lost to the Cardinals 3-1 on Nov. 19.

The Knights ended their regular season on a tear, winning seven of their last 10 matches before entering the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference playoffs and losing to Clarion 3-0.

In the game against Wheeling Jesuit, hosted by Edinboro University, coach Matt Darling said he had a good game plan to beat the Cardinals, but the team failed to execute.

Darling said Gannon failed to avoid hitting to the Cardinals’ middle and outside hitters, enabling Wheeling Jesuit to walk away with the victory.

A big contribution during the game – and season – was made by the front line.

Sophomore outside hitter Lauren Sazama led the team in kills this year with 387, with fellow sophomore outside hitter Morgan Reineke not far behind with 345.

Junior middle blocker Kara Cullen, who has played a vital role in her three years on the team, had 243 kills this year and was third in that department.

It was also the third straight year that she reached triple digits in blocks, tallying 103 for the season.

Darling said the team confirmed that the 2009 season in which they won 22-10 was not a fluke.

“We proved that we’re a team that I think has durability and that we’re the top part of the conference,” he said.

However, he said that there are still improvements to be made.

“The season as a whole I would characterize as sort of instructional for us,” he said. “We had some weaknesses exposed, which we will address through recruiting and the offseason.”

“The team we had this year was the team we’ve been waiting for,” Cullen said. “I think we learned we can have a great season with this team and we really could go all the way. However, there is much to work on.”

Darling said that three players in particular: Sazama, junior  Claren Harris and sophomore middle blocker Sarah Glancy really came into their own this year.

Harris had a total of 32 blocks in her first two years on the team. This season, she more than doubled that total with 83, second only behind Cullen.

Glancy, who only appeared in six matches last year as a freshman, made 36 blocks while contributing 46 kills this year.

As for next year, Gannon only loses two seniors: defensive specialist Jess Saunders and right side hitter Kendall Fischer.

“We just need to develop a consistent competitive identity,” Darling said. “And if we can do that, I’ll be happy.”


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