Volleyball ends regular season a perfect 16-0



Gannon’s volleyball team finished a perfect 16-0 after defeating Carnegie Mellon, 3-1, Saturday.

Alex Pepke, Sports Editor

Despite playing in the spring instead of the fall, the Gannon University volleyball team ended its regular season 16-0, capping the year off with a 3-1 victory over Carnegie Mellon Saturday.

This type of success is nothing new for the Knights. Their coach, Matt Darling, is the winningest coach in program history with a 318-125 overall record.

The team is 77-10 since 2018, proving to be a force to be reckoned with in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) and beyond.

Unfortunately for Gannon, it will not get to follow up its undefeated regular season with a PSAC title run, as there will be no PSAC championship this year. In addition, there will be no NCAA tournament either.

If there was going to be a tournament, Gannon would be one of the favorites to win the PSAC, and potentially the national title.

On the bright side, Gannon will take part in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) D-II National Championship tournament this week in Dallas. The Knights will make their tournament debut Wednesday against Ashland.

The AVCA tournament is not an official NCAA tournament, but it will include 14 teams, with about half of them being ranked in the top 25 in Division II this year.

In the latest AVCA Top 25 Poll, Gannon was ranked No. 9 in the country, with its ranking reaching as high as No. 8 this season. That is the highest in program history.

The Knights ended their season with two 3-0 wins over Mercyhurst Wednesday, and a 3-1 win over Carnegie Mellon Saturday. Despite not playing a PSAC-sanctioned season, they were able to secure victories over PSAC opponents in Mercyhurst, Slippery Rock and Clarion.

Early on, they had games canceled against Walsh, Salem and Findlay. The highlight of their season came on Feb. 27, when they upset the No. 1 team in the country, Hillsdale, 3-1.

That victory proved that they could play with the best teams in the nation, and it would have been interesting to see how they would have performed if there were an NCAA tournament this year.

The Knights got the chance to play teams they normally wouldn’t play against, and the competition level was a bit different than what they would see in a usual season.

“We certainly played a wide range of teams this year, and that was of course a function of the PSAC deciding not to have a conference schedule,” Darling said. “Among the highlights were an exhibition match against D-I Bowling Green, which easily won the MAC and will play in the NCAA tournament next week, and of course a great win at No. 1 Hillsdale in February.

“Considering that we had to schedule all of our own matches this year, I’m happy with the level of competition we’ve seen so far.”

Gannon went 16-0 despite not having one of its best players, Ashley Beyers, all season. Beyers is ranked fifth all-time in Gannon history in assists and kill percentage. Even without her at setter, the team managed to go undefeated.

In Beyers’ absence, Gannon had key contributors play well all season.

Ashley McClung led the team  with 113 kills and 135 points. Lauren Sampson was second on the team in kills and points, and first in service aces with 22. Kaeli Kristensen had the most assists on the Knights with 289 and assists per set with 5.35.

Darling had only good things to say about his team this year. Despite the craziness of a non-PSAC spring season, the Knights were still able to compete at a very high level.

“I could not be more proud of this team and what we have accomplished so far this year,” said Darling. “We endured delays, cancellations, injuries, sadness and seemingly everything else, but through it all the team stayed together and practiced like champions.”

“To be honest, I’m in awe of their performance and their commitment to this program.”

[email protected]